Why are dessert shops allowed to reopen before other TCM shops, Lee Bee Wah asks in Parliament

PHOTO: Screengrab/Facebook

The multi-ministry task force on Covid-19 will "continue to look at" loosening restrictions on traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) halls, Health minister Gan Kim Yong said at Monday's (May 4) Parliament sitting after Nee Soon MP Lee Bee Wah pressed for an explanation on why dessert shops were allowed to resume operations before certain TCM shops.

Lee's queries came in the wake of the government's announcement that TCM needle acupuncture would be allowed from May 5, but only for pain management. Other therapies such as cupping, tuina, guasha and moxibustion are still not permitted under the circuit breaker rules.

TCM halls with a resident registered TCM practitioner will also be allowed to sell retail products from May 5.

However, many neighbourhood TCM retail stores do not have registered TCM practitioners, Lee explained.

Addressing Gan in Mandarin, Lee posed the question of why TCM retail shops were required to close while pharmacies were allowed to remain open during the circuit breaker period.

She also questioned why confectionery and dessert shops will be allowed to resume operations on May 12, ahead of these TCM shops, quipping: "'Is TCM less tasty than ice cream and cake?"

When her questions went unanswered, Lee addressed Gan for a second time, asking: "Do you need me to ask in English? Or you will answer?"

MP Lee Bee Wah questions Health Minister Gan Kim Yong why dessert shops can open during CB but not traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) halls. Video footage: Lianhe Zaobao

Posted by AsiaOne on Tuesday, May 5, 2020

In his response, Gan explained that the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19 had had "a very heated debate to decide what to liberalise".

"Particularly for medical practices including TCM practices, there's a lot of close interpersonal contacts. So we want to be particularly careful with this."

The task force will "continue to look at" loosening the restrictions and will take Lee's feedback into consideration, Gan assured.

Gan had also said in a press conference on May 2 that the task force's decision on TCM services was in line with other allied healthcare services such as physiotherapy and occupational therapy, which were allowed to resume from Apr 29.

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kimberlylim@asiaone.com