Singapore PM’s Speech over CoronaVirus.
My fellow Singaporeans good evening five weeks ago, I spoke to you on a COVID-19 situation.Much has happened since then so it’s time to update you again and share with you what we can expect down the road. I’ll speak about three aspects of the issue medical economic and psychological. On the medical front we continue to see new cases in Singapore, most either have traveled overseas or can be traced to imported cases.
Each time we’ve been able to isolate them do contact tracing and quarantine the close contacts so our numbers have not blown up, but neither have we been able to eradicate the virus despite our best efforts.At the same time around us the number of cases is rising rapidly. China’s situation is stabilizing but new cases are emerging all over the world in Europe America and the Middle East, globally the number of cases is doubling every 5 to 7 days.Hence today the WHO declared Covert 19 to be a pandemic.What does this mean? It means that WHO assesses that many countries will see full-blown outbreaks with sustained community transmission like what has happened in South Korea and Italy and unlike SARS.
This outbreak will continue for some time a year and maybe longer.The WHO named one key reason for the rapid spread that many countries had not taken the situation seriously enough.What the W a show called alarming levels of inaction here in Singapore, we have all along taken COVID 19 with the utmost seriousness. In fact the WI show praised our efforts and held Singapore up as an example to emulate.But we too faced a serious situation we expect more important cases and therefore new clusters and new waves of infection this time coming from many countries rather than one or two.We have already imposed some travel restrictions for example from China Iran South Korea Italy. We will have to tighten up further temporarily though we cannot completely shut ourselves off from the world.
What else must we do first because COVID 19 will be with us for a long time?
There are baseline things that we must get used to like practicing good personal hygiene adopting new social norms and discouraging large gatherings and generally maintaining some physical distance from one another.That’s why we already scale down community activities especially for the seniors and we can do more in other areas, for example at religious gatherings. In South Korea the cases spread through the Shin janji church group. In Singapore two of our big clusters happened in church groups and several Singaporeans who attended a big international religious gathering at a bleak gathering in Kuala Lumpur recently have caught the virus.The issue is of course not religion itself but that the virus can spread quickly to many people in crowded settings, like religious gatherings and services that’s why Saudi Arabia temporarily stopped Umrah pilgrimage, as’ and the pope live-streamed his sermon to avoid crowds on San Peter’s Square.
I hope Singaporeans understand that during this period we may need to shorten religious services or reduce our attendants have such gatherings please work with your religious leaders to make these practical adjustments.Second we need to plan for a possible spike in COVID 19 cases with very large numbers if it happens we will not be able to hospitalize and isolate every case like we do now.But we now know that the majority of patients in fact about 80% of them only experience mild symptoms and the ones who are most at risk are the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions like high blood pressure or lung problems.So with larger numbers the sensible thing will be to hospitalized only the more serious cases and encourage those with mild symptoms to see their family GP and rest at home isolate themselves.This way we focus resources on the seriously ill speed up our response time and hopefully minimize the number of fatalities.In the meantime we are freeing up ICU and hospital beds and facilities to create additional capacity to meet any surge in COVID numbers but rest assured any Singaporean who needs urgent medical care, whether for COVID 19 or other illnesses will be taken care of.
Besides medical plans if there is a spike we will also need additional social distancing measures these will be temporary, like suspending school staggering work hours or compulsory telecommuting.They will be the extra breaks to be implemented when we see a spike.In cases the extra breaks will slow down transmission of the virus prevent our healthcare system from being overwhelmed and help bring the numbers back down after the situation improves.We can ease off and go back to the baseline precautions but let me emphasize this the situation in Singapore remains under control.We are not going to dos con red we are not locking down our city like the Chinese the South Koreans or Italians have done.What we are doing now is to plan ahead for some of these more stringent measures try them out and prepare Singaporeans for when we actually need to implement them as we consider these next steps.
One major concern we have is the impact on our economy.Our economy is taking a big hit that’s why we did the four billion dollar support and stabilization package in the budget last month to help businesses workers and households tied over the immediate period.This has helped but where things still unfolding we knew we might have to do more.The situation is especially serious for some sectors hotels aviation hospitality and freelancers in the gig economy but nobody has been spared.Everyone feels the impact to different degrees so the government is working on a second package of measures we will help our companies with a cost and cash flow to keep them afloat through the storm.We will help our workers keep their jobs and retrain during their downtime so that when things return to normal our workers will be the first out of the gate and immediately productive and we will give those who are retrenched and unemployed as well as their families an extra helping hand to see through this difficult period.
I’m sharing these plans with you to reassure you that we’re on top of things and thinking ahead.We anticipated the medical and economic consequences. I’m confident that we can deal with them but what is also critical is the psychological aspect of this fight.Our front-line staff are working extremely hard to keep Singapore going.Health care workers immigration officers civil servants public transport workers taxi drivers cleaning staff Singaporeans are cheering them on the government for its part has been open and transparent with our plans when we made direct appeals to Singaporeans, for example only wear face masks when unwell or don’t worry about our supermarkets running out of food or household items.People accepted our reassurances and change their behavior. I’m grateful that most Singaporeans are responding calmly and responsibly thank you for your trust and support.
Singapore’s response has received international Akalis underlying this is the social and psychological resilience of our people what makes Singapore different from other countries.Is that we have confidence in each other?We feel that we are all in this together and we don’t leave anyone behind.This is SG united we are SG United we will remain in this high-risk State nevertheless for some time to come but if we keep up our guard and take practical precautions to protect ourselves and our families.We will be able to keep our economy going and carry on with our daily lives.In such a crisis everyone has a part to play. I hope you’ll work with me and my colleagues to keep our families safe keep Singapore secure and move forward together thank you.