COVID-19: Singapore economy to 'take a hit', recession possible due to outbreak - PM Lee

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during a visit to the National Centre of Infectious Diseases amid the coronavirus outbreak. (PHOTO: Ministry of Communication and Information)

SINGAPORE — Singapore’s economy will definitely “take a hit”, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Friday (14 February), as he warned that a recession is possible due to the impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.

Speaking during a visit to Changi Airport Terminal 3, PM Lee said he believes the coronavirus outbreak’s impact on Singapore’s economy has already exceed that of the SARS epidemic in 2003.

“It’s already much more than SARS, and the economies of the region are much more interlinked together. China, particularly, is a much bigger factor in the region,” he told The Straits Times.

Singapore has been trying to contain the coronavirus, which was first reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019. The number of confirmed cases has been rising – there are 58 cases so far with at least five local clusters as of the latest update from the Ministry of Health on Thursday.

During the SARS outbreak, it took five months – from March to July 2003 – for the virus to be eradicated in Singapore.

“That was, I think, very fast. I expect it not to be so fast this time," PM Lee said.

When asked if Singapore should shift its approach in dealing with the COVID-19 virus, he said the country is not at that point yet. Shutting down Singapore is also not an option, he added.

“Every day brings new developments and we cannot be sure which way it will go. So we have to watch and we have to respond quickly, you have to make a judgment at each point, what is the right thing to do now,” he said.

“We have to keep on, keep Singapore going and we have to keep making a living. Life has to go on. So we have to calibrate and judge as we go on each step, what is the most prudent thing to do.”

During his visit to Changi Airport, PM Lee spoke with a range of workers, who told him that the virus has already impacted flights and businesses. On Tuesday, the Singapore Tourism Board forecast visitor arrivals to decline by between 25 and 30 per cent this year.

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