SINGAPORE — The government could lower the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (Dorscon) level if the situation in Singapore stabilises or if COVID-19 were to spread worldwide, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said on Tuesday (25 February).
Gan was replying to a question at a multi-ministry taskforce press conference about the possibility of lowering the Dorscon level back to yellow. Singapore’s Dorscon level was raised to orange on 7 February.
The question prompted co-chair and National Development Minister Lawrence Wong to quip “It’s a good sign (reporters) don’t ask when will it go to red, now they ask the other way around.”
Gan raised two scenarios in which the Dorscon level will be lowered: if the situation in Singapore stabilises, or if the infection becomes “ a widespread community transmission, all over the world”.
“Then, a lot of these border control measures may no longer be meaningful, we may begin to remove some of these border controls if it becomes quite apparent that every country's going to have a transmission.”
Citing what Wong said about border control measures earlier in the press conference, Gan said that it was not possible to isolate Singapore from the rest of the world.
“It's not just economics but human to human interaction, country to country interaction, it is not possible. So we may have to then readjust our posture and decide how, what we want to do. And if that situation occurs, we may have to adjust our Dorscon orange downwards as well.”
Under Dorscon orange, a disease is considered to be severe and spreads easily from person to person, but the disease has not spread widely in Singapore and is contained.
However, the Health Minister noted that there was “latitude” to adjust measures even within the same Dorscon level.
“Even before we moved to a Dorscon orange, we have actually already implemented a lot of measures that are relevant in Dorscon orange, and similarly, as we move forward, we may adjust some of the measures downwards,” he said.
He added that moving the Dorscon level was not a matter of ticking off a checklist but a judgement call, taking into consideration risk factors, as well as what other countries are doing.
Wong had earlier told reporters that there may well be a sustained widespread transmission of the virus around the world if COVID-19 was not contained well in other countries.
"And that's why in Singapore we cannot afford to be complacent because we can put in place travel restrictions for China, where the source is. We can do for another country, second country or third country, but can we afford to shut ourselves out from the world?
Singapore has to be prepared for a new wave of imported cases if the virus spread worldwide,” said Wong.
“And that might well be a scenario where the virus becomes endemic in the human population. And we have to learn how to live with it, take the necessary precautions. There may well be hopefully some medication that can be promising by then. But at the same time we all have to keep calm and carry on with life.”