SINGAPORE: Vice activities conducted by some individuals here are not representative of the Vietnamese population in Singapore, said an official from the Vietnam embassy.
There are about 15,000 Vietnamese living here in Singapore.
Many of them work in the food and beverage industry such as restaurants and hawker centres, or are here to study, said the embassy’s deputy chief of mission Le Cong Dung.
“Those (who work at KTVs) are a very small number … not all Vietnamese come to Singapore for KTV jobs,” he said.
“It’s just bad luck that this Vietnamese woman was infected … and that it (created) a public image that the Vietnamese community is doing (KTV jobs),” he said.
“But I can assure you that the Vietnamese here, are one of the most easy-going people. We are (mostly) working with hawkers … that’s one of the main fields that Vietnamese with work permits do here,” he said.
Mr Dung was responding to reports of discrimination against the Vietnamese in Singapore after the index case of the KTV lounges cluster – a Vietnamese short-term visit pass holder – tested positive for COVID-19 on Jul 11.
As of Wednesday (Jul 21), the cluster has been linked to 215 cases.
It is also linked to the cluster at Jurong Fishery Port, with infections genetically different from the virus variant seen in other local clusters, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung on Monday.
READ: KTV and Jurong Fishery Port COVID-19 clusters are ‘linked’: Ong Ye Kung
Even though the Vietnamese woman was the first case to be detected in the cluster, the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) director of medical services Kenneth Mak clarified last Friday that this does not mean she was the source of the infection.
Given that the woman has been in Singapore for a while, it is “extremely” likely that the seeding of the cluster arose as a result of an initial community spread, he had said at the time.
The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) and the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Friday confirmed that the woman entered Singapore in February via the familial ties lane.
She was sponsored by a Singapore citizen who had indicated on her application form that he was her boyfriend.
READ: Timeline: From KTV lounges switching to F&B outlets, to a spike in local COVID-19 cases
“We have integrated ourselves in the community in Singapore’s society for the long term (so) we see ourselves as Singaporeans, as long-term residents … we don’t associate ourselves with the people that come to Singapore in a short-term way,” said chairman of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce (VietCham) David Nguyen.
“And I think most of the people here, (including) Singaporeans … understand that those kinds of activities or short-term visitors that come to Singapore are mainly organised by Singaporeans themselves, (such as) the owner of bars, clubs,” he told CNA.
“It’s not related to the Vietnamese residents here who are staying, integrated with the community here and living a peaceful life in Singapore,” said Dr Nguyen.
VietCham works closely with its members to ensure that they adhere to the country’s laws and policies, including COVID-19 safe management measures, he added.
While the embassy has not received any complaints from residents, Mr Dung acknowledged that there may be some cases that were not reported because the people involved did not want to draw attention to themselves.
“We Vietnamese tend to hold back when something like this happens and (hope) that time will ease everything,” Mr Dung told CNA.
“It’s really sad that such a thing has happened,” he said.
“I hope (people living in) Singapore will have a better picture about the Vietnamese community here.”
COVID-19 VIRUS DOES NOT DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN NATIONALITIES: SUN XUELING
Member of Parliament Sun Xueling (PAP-Punggol West) shared in a Facebook post on Saturday that a resident had written to her with concerns for the Vietnamese community.
In her email to Ms Sun, who is also Minister of State for Education and Social and Family Development, the resident said that Vietnamese women have been facing verbal abuse and hate speech after the discovery of the index case linked to the KTV cluster.
In her post, Ms Sun urged the public to be more discerning and compassionate, so as not to hurt those who are “innocent”.
Speaking to CNA on Wednesday, Ms Sun said the resident noted that these Vietnamese women who are “mothers, wives, frontline workers” face verbal abuse when they are out in public buying essential items.
The resident shared an example of a woman who was asked to disembark from a taxi, as well as a six-year-old child who witnessed his mother, a Vietnamese, being “unkindly spoken to”, she added.
There are several families with children in her ward that have Vietnamese family members, said Ms Sun.
“I see them around when I go on house visits, at the playgrounds, at the supermarkets. I have helped several such families in the past when they have faced issues with housing or financial assistance. That may have prompted the resident to reach out to me,” she added.
“I responded to her that I will raise awareness of the issue she raised and encourage respect and civility. We should not tar an entire community with a single brush because of the misbehaviour of some.”
The coronavirus “does not differentiate” between nationalities and occupations, stressed Ms Sun.
“We are in this together and we need to be responsible together. We are only as strong as the weakest link so we need everyone’s collective efforts to stay safe.”
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