COVID-19 isn't going to wait for us, stay at home as much as you can: Lawrence Wong

Amir Hussain
Senior Reporter

SINGAPORE — With the number of imported cases of COVID-19 continuing to rise, the risk of locally transmitted cases will also increase, making the threat of a widespread virus outbreak “very real”, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong.

Hence, practising safe distancing and minimising social activities is important in slowing down the spread of the virus, and public venues and roads are already less crowded, he noted during a press conference on Tuesday (24 March).

Virus not going to wait for us: Wong

However, the adjustments to Singaporeans’ daily lives are taking place too slowly, said Wong, who is also the co-chair of the multi-ministry taskforce to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

“The virus isn’t going to wait for us. It is continuing to spread and circulate in our population, and anytime you can get an outbreak,” he said.

“It is of great concern that you still hear stories of people gathering together. You still hear anecdotes of people gathering in clubs, in discos, where there are large social gatherings which can easily become super-spreader events, and then another cluster will break out after that.”

On Tuesday, the taskforce announced a slew of measures to further minimise the spread of the new virus.

Among other things, all bars and entertainment venues - including night clubs, discos, cinemas, theatres, and karaoke outlets - will be closed at least till end-April. All events will also be cancelled, while gatherings outside of work and school should be limited to 10 attendees or fewer.

Centre-based tuition and enrichment classes, as well as religious services and congregations will also be suspended.

Wong said the taskforce hopes Singaporeans will take the measures seriously as they are meant to minimise the risk of local transmission.

“Our key message to all Singaporeans is stay at home as much as you can. Go out if you need to work, go to school, go out for essential tasks, but otherwise stay at home, reduce your social gatherings and all other activities for the next one month,” he said.

“It is only by all of us reducing our activity level and the intensity of our contacts – that’s the only way where we can significantly reduce the chance of this virus spreading further in our community. And so this is a collective endeavour and we need Singaporeans to really take this task seriously.”

558 infected cases in Singapore

As of Tuesday, Singapore confirmed 49 new cases of the virus, bringing the total to 558. 17 remain in the intensive care unit while two have died.

Meanwhile, there are close to 396,000 COVID-19 cases globally as of Tuesday. More than 17,000 have died from the virus, with the death tolls in China and Italy accounting for more than half of the figure.

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