1,300 participants get timely advice on business preparedness from Minister Khaw Boon Wan on Influenza
A (H1N1-2009) outbreak
Singapore, Wednesday, 1 July 2009 - As Singapore moves from the containment to the mitigation stage of the flu pandemic following the surge of community spread H1N1 cases over the past few weeks, Minister for Health, Mr. Khaw Boon Wan, strongly encouraged businesses to be more prepared. The Minister said this and more during the dialogue session organised jointly by the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) and the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) today.
"Mother nature has been kind to us. This is the second wake-up call since six years ago when we had SARS," said Minister Khaw, who noted that Singapore had learnt a great deal from the SARS experience in 2003, where the virus was deadly but not as infectious as the H1N1 virus.
He told the more than 1,300 participants present that post SARS, the hospital operations were boosted with the increase of isolation wards and Intensive Care Units (ICU); and preventive standards were brushed up. "The hospitals' response to H1N1 virus was almost flawless, yes our resources may be stretched and there is long patient waiting time at the hospitals, but from a clinical point of view, the response has been as good as one expects," the Minister added.
However, the Minister cautioned that the businesses have a long way to go in terms of being prepared for the onslaught of the virus. He highlighted that the preparedness varies across sectors, where some companies seemed to be more prepared than others. Therefore, businesses were strongly urged to learn from the SARS and H1N1 experience, and gear up for a possible third wave of pandemic.
Minister Khaw added that it is a matter of time before more people are infected given that no one has natural immunity to the H1N1 virus and that one in every three patients are unaware of their H1N1 infection. He cited a WHO finding where 2 billion people are expected to be infected in the next few years and 1 million within the next few months. Thus, there will come a point where Singapore would stop number crunching as it becomes "increasingly meaningless to monitor the numbers". This was unlike the first seven weeks since the first case came up in late May, where most of the cases were imported.
Minister Khaw also addressed concerns from the ground together with his panel, comprising SBF Chairman, Mr. Tony Chew; SNEF Vice President, Mr. Bob Tan; Ministry of Health's Dr. Lyn James, Director of Communicable Disease; and MOM?s Mr. Ng Chun Pin, Director, Tripartite Programme and International Relations.
Participants generally raised concerns on the measures they have to take to prevent the spread of the flu pandemic among their staff. One participant told the Minister that his oil refinery company faces a dilemma in effecting a Business Continuity Plan (BCP). It is unsafe for the oil refinery to run on less than a third of its workforce, and it cannot afford for most of its staff to go on Home Quarantine Order (HQO).
While noting that this was a real life situation, Minister Khaw affirmed that there is no exception for anyone for HQO cases. He reiterated that companies must have stringent BCPs in place to prepare them for possible consequences.
In addition to the dialogue session, speakers from SBF, MOH and MOM also gave participants an updated overview on Influenza A H1N1. Ms. Rita King, Senior Director, SBF, apprised participants on the National Business Continuity Management (BCM) Programme, where SMEs can defray part of the cost for obtaining SS 540 certification in BCM.
Narrowing down on the specifics of the H1N1 virus, MOH's Dr James furnished participants with details on the pandemic's development in Singapore and globally. She said tropical Singapore will be facing the challenge all year round, especially during the period of December to February as well as April to June since we face winter winds from both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. In addition, 50 per cent of H1N1 patients are under 20 years old.
Presenting the Revised Tripartite Advisory on Workplace Measures to tackle the Influenza A, released on 26 June 2009, following the transition from containment to mitigation phase was Mr. Lau Weng Hong, Deputy Director, Labour Relations, MOM. He also informed participants that they can tap up to $20,000 for Work-Life implementation through the WoW! Fund (Work-Life Works Fund) when they implement telecommuting and part-time work. For more information, they can visit
Revised Tripartite Advisory on Workplace measures to tackle Influenza A
For more information
- Employers and employees should work closely to prevent and slow down the spread of the Influenza A (H1N1-2009) and minimize the impact to businesses and employees.
- Employers should take precautionary steps by putting in place infection control measures and business continuity plans, and be considerate towards the needs of their employees.
- Employees should also cooperate with the company so as to minimize disruption to businesses.
- Both employers and employees should exercise social responsibility and adhere to any advisories issued by MOH on the Influenza A H1N1.
Ministry of Manpower
MOM Contact Center, Tel: 6438 5122
Singapore National Employers Federation
Duty consultant, Tel: 6327 9297 (Weekdays, 9am to 5.30 pm)
Singapore Business Federation
Member Relations and Services Group, Tel: 6827 6844
Capacity Building Group (For enquiries on Business Continuity Management)
Tel: 6827 6867
For more information on SS540:2008, please visit www.singaporestandardseshop.sg
National Trades Union Congress
Industrial Relations Department, Tel: 6213 8233
For an update on SBF programmes and activities, look up "Upcoming Events" on the SBF website, www.sbf.org.sg
The website also carries the following useful information/links on its Home Page:
1. Flu Pandemic Business Continuity Guide (English & Chinese)
2. Business Continuity Management Programme
3. Hyperlink to MOM website for the latest H1N1 updates
4. Hyperlink to crisis.gov.sg for crisis information and Hotline numbers