1. Keppel Marina East Desalination Plant opens; the first capable of treating both seawater and freshwater
Singapore’s national water agency PUB and Keppel officially opened the nation’s fourth desalination plant, which is also the first large-scale dual-mode desalination plant, on Thursday, 4 February.
The Keppel Marina East Desalination plant is located at Marina East and is able to treat both seawater and freshwater, which it draws from Marina Reservoir, depending on prevailing weather conditions. Water is drawn via the plant’s dual flow chamber, which is joined to the main plant by a 1.8km-long pipeline.
The plant will draw on seawater during dry weather, much like Singapore’s other desalination plants. However, during seasons of rainy weather, the plant will treat fresh water instead, which is less energy-taxing and allows for greater cost savings.
While the plant’s treatment facilities are contained underground, it has nearly 20,000 sq m of open green rooftop space for community activity and recreation. Bicycle parking and toilet facilities are available at the site to cater for public recreation.
Additionally, the plant incorporates eco-features such as rain harvesting to meet the needs of irrigation and water features. It is also the first water treatment plant in Singapore to use ultraviolet radiation as the primary disinfection process.
The Keppel Marina East Desalination Plant had first commenced operations in June 2020 and is capable of producing approximately 30 million gallons of fresh drinking water per day, totalling about 7 per cent of Singapore’s total water demand.
This plant is also the most compact in Singapore, due to the direct coupling of both ultrafiltration and reverse osmosis systems, where water filtered from the upstream and ultrafiltration process is fed directly to the downstream reverse osmosis process.
The above thus eliminates the need for immediate break tanks and pumping stages, allowing for cost and space savings. Moreover, the plant is between 12 to 15 per cent more energy efficient.
2. 100 per cent chance of Tokyo Olympics taking place; Lead-up to Beijing Winter Olympics 2022 dampened by COVID-19 and human rights concerns
A senior official for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, John Coates, has said that there’s a 100 per cent chance that the Games will be taking place. The Tokyo Olympics had been postponed from last year to July this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The statement was made amidst the global health crisis still raging worldwide, and polls revealing that a vast majority of the Japanese oppose holding the Olympics in 2020.
Meanwhile, we are one year out from the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, even as preparations are overshadowed by the pandemic and concerns over alleged human rights abuses, including a mass incarceration in Xinjiang.
The Winter Olympic Games are scheduled to begin on 4 February 2022, just six months after the Tokyo Summer Games. China has said that its build-up has not been affected by the ongoing pandemic, and that all 12 competition venues have been completed.
However, the ongoing pandemic has made large public gatherings impossible. The local organising committee has also failed to respond to requests for comments about how the pandemic might impact the games.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said that it is working closely with the Chinese and the World Health Organisation to monitor the global health situation, vaccine distribution, testing methods, and other developments relating to COVID-19.
On the international front, things are not looking so peachy as well; on Wednesday, 3 February, a coalition of 180 campaign groups demanded a boycott by world leaders “to ensure they are not used to embolden the Chinese government’s appalling rights abuses and crackdowns on dissent”.
A group of United States senators have also asserted that Beijing should be stripped of the Games, even though there was no change to the US’ official stance. China has dismissed these calls as irresponsible and politically motivated.
China has been coming under fire as of late due to growing international concern over human rights, particularly that of China’s Uighur minority.
Rights groups believe that a minimum of 1 million Uighurs and other Turkic-speaking Muslims are incarcerated in camps in the Western region of Xinjiang. The nation has been accused of compelling Uighurs to renounce Islam, forcibly sterilising women, and imposing a regime of forced labour, all in an alleged effort to eradicate their identity.
While the China government had initially denied the camps’ existence, they have since acknowledged them as vocational training centres aimed at reducing the appeal of Islamic extremism.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has acknowledged these concerns, but said that the “Olympic Games are the world’s most powerful symbol of unity in all our diversity.” Meanwhile, Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, has called on the IOC to “be honest about the context in which these Games will take place.”
China hopes that the Winter Olympics will help to boost the popularity of winter sports in the country and show the country in a positive light abroad.
3. Over 3,700 BTO flats and first Community Care Apartments launched by HDB
In its first sales exercise of 2021, 3,740 flats have been launched for sale by HDB on Thursday, 4 February.
Located in Bukit Batok, Tengah, Kallang/Whampoa and Toa Payoh (Bidadari), these include a new variety of public housing that caters to seniors’ needs in design.
HDB noted in a press release that the other flats in the launch aim to address the needs of “first-timer families, second-timer families, seniors and singles”, with a range of housing options from 2-room Flexi to 5-room flats.
Excluding grants, prices for flats within the non-mature estate of Bukit Batok and Tengah start from S$101,000 for a two-room Flexi unit in Tengah, and S$611,000 for a five-room unit in Toa Payoh. For the mature towns, prices start from S$532,000 in Kallang/Whampoa and S$464,000 in Toa Payoh for a four-room flat.
Plans for the Community Care Apartments were announced in 2020. Newly launched by the HDB, these aim to support seniors’ needs for housing with a greater variety of options that aid them in ageing independently.
Housing options include the Harmony Village at Bukit Batok, which will offer 169 Community Care Apartment units within a 15-storey residential block. This will be bounded by Bukit Batok West Avenue 6 and Avenue 9.
Starting prices for the Community Care Apartments begin at $52,000, excluding grants.
With this launch, seniors aged 65 years and above will have access to “an affordable housing option which integrates senior-friendly design features with care services that can be scaled according to care needs”, according to HDB.
A variable housing lease (15 to 35 years) and subscription to a mandatory basic care package will be compulsory for applicants who are successful. Options for adding on advanced care services such as meal delivery and housekeeping will also be available.
Priority flat application is available for seniors or essential occupier who require permanent assistance
Should at least one applicant or essential occupier require long term assistance with their daily activities, seniors can opt to apply for priority flat allocation.
Joint ballots for two housing units with another household, such as a friend or family member, will also be allowed. Successful applicants will have the options of booking their flats together.
Interested parties can apply online from 4 – 10 February for the February BTO exercise.
More launches are to be expected this year, with approximately 3,800 BTO flats being offered in the towns of Bukit Merah, Geylang, Tengah and Woodlands this May.
HDB also mentioned that 4,900 BTO flats will go on sale in August, for the estates of Hougang, Jurong East, Kallang Whampoa, Queenstown and Tampines.
4. Public urged to stay vigilant against scams for COVID-19 vaccinations and online purchases for bak kwa
With more individuals being scheduled to receive their COVID-19 vaccinations, the police urges members of the public to stay vigilant upon the reception of messages regarding the vaccination exercise, to avoid being the victim of scams.
In time, short message service (SMS) messages will be sent to those eligible for vaccination, requesting that they sign up for their vaccines. A unique link enabling them to access the National Appointment System for the scheduling of their appointments will also be made available.
Personalised letters will be sent to seniors to invite them to sign up for their vaccinations. The police urges the public to scrutinize these messages for grammatical errors, and to confirm that the unique link provided ends with gov.sg before they click on it.
The vaccinations are free for Singaporeans, permanent residents and long-term residents. Messages offering early access or asking for payment for the vaccines are false.
In a statement released on Thursday, 4 February, the police said that “the Ministry of Health will not ask you to make any payment to schedule or to receive the vaccination.”
Members of the public can confirm if the messages received are authentic by calling the Ministry of Health’s hotline on 1800 333 9999.
On Wednesday, the Health Sciences Authority approved interim authorisation for American firm Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine, after confirming it to be 94 per cent effective.
The first shipment of the vaccinations is expected to arrive in March. Suited for those aged 18 and older, it is the second vaccine to be given the green light in Singapore, following the approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech last December.
Over 175,000 people in Singapore have received their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which requires two doses with a 21-day interval. These include individuals who face the most risk of infection, such as seniors and those who work in the healthcare and essential service sectors. Approximately 6,000 individuals have received their second dose and completed the full vaccination regimen.
The upcoming Chinese New Year also sees the rise of more scams, such as online scams for festive goods.
On Thursday, 4 February, the police said that scams involving the sale of “Hock Moon Hiong” bak kwa have been detected in Singapore. Posing as sellers of the bak kwa in Singapore, scammers would put up advertisements asking victims to place orders on Facebook, and request that full payment be made through e-payment modes such as PayNow or bank transfer. Victims only discovered the scam when their bak kwa purchases were not delivered, and when the sellers were not contactable.
Based in Malaysia, Hock Moon Hiong is a dried meats distributor that has no physical stores in Singapore. On its official website, all of its products have been stated as being sold out, though stocks are available for purchase at physical stores.
The police prompted the public to take more precautions with online shopping, such as making purchases from authorised and renowned sellers, looking at customers’ reviews and ratings to verify the legitimacy of sellers’ profiles, and opting to pay by cash on deliver for purchases made from classified advertisements online.
The police said that that only meat products from approved sources can be brought into Singapore.
Any information regarding potential scams should be reported online or by calling the police hotline on 1800-255-0000.
For more information on scams, members of the public can call the anti-scam hotline on 1800-722-6688, or visit https://www.scamalert.sg/.