COVID-19: Singapore will do its part as global citizen – PM Lee

PM Lee delivering a video message for the World Health Organization on 8 April, 2020. (PHOTO: @leehsienloong/Twitter)

SINGAPORE — Countries must co-operate closely and learn from one another amid the coronavirus pandemic, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Wednesday (8 April), as he gave assurances that Singapore will do its part in the fight against a common enemy.

“This is the only way humanity can bring this pandemic under control. The battle is far from won, but it can be won, if we fight together,” said Lee. “Singapore will do our part.”

He was speaking in a two-minute-long video message recorded for the World Health Organization (WHO) Western Pacific regional office. The office was holding a second virtual meeting – titled "Stand in Solidarity to Combat Covid-19"– of health ministers in the region.

In a caption shared along with the video posted on Facebook, Lee said he was invited to share about Singapore’s efforts to fight COVID-19, “an unprecedented global crisis”.

“Singapore has taken COVID-19 very seriously since the start. We have done our best to detect cases and isolate them, and to trace their contacts and quarantine them, to stop further transmission,” he added.

Authorities here have also encouraged people to keep safe distances apart and wash their hands, said Lee, adding that people are also now encouraged to wear masks when they go out.

“But this is a very difficult fight,” he noted. “Despite all our efforts, our case numbers continue to rise. So we have just implemented a circuit breaker – substantially tighter safe distancing measures.”

The “circuit breaker” measures, which were rolled out on Tuesday and is expected to last through early-May, saw a country-wide closure of all non-essential workplaces, schools and childcare centres.

Employers have also been tasked to allow their employees to work from home “wherever possible” and for everyone to stay home, said Lee.

These measures are painful but essential, he stressed, adding that the next few weeks would be crucial for the city-state’s fight against the virus.

“Many other countries have done the same. Each country has different circumstances, social norms, and resources. But we are all fighting the same enemy – COVID-19,” said Lee.

He also took the opportunity to express his appreciation for the leadership and expertise of the WHO, under director-general Tedros Ghebreyesus and Western Pacific regional director Takeshi Kasai.

“We depend on the WHO to mobilise and co-ordinate an effective global response, including by convening today’s meeting,” said Lee.

“I wish everyone strength and wisdom as we deliberate and forge a way forward to good health and a new normal.”

In separate posts on Facebook, Senior Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min, who was Singapore’s representative for the virtual meeting, called Singapore’s “circuit breaker” measures a “decisive, preemptive move” to maintain control and preserve healthcare capacity.

He also noted that population density and hubs of human activities make urban areas, such as Singapore, especially vulnerable to infectious disease threats.

“Being an urban city, Singapore is especially vulnerable to infectious disease threats. We learned from our experiences during the (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) SARS and H1N1 outbreaks, and invested resources in pandemic preparedness over the years,” said Lam.

He also warned that the COVID-19 pandemic will not be the last one with world-wide devastating consequences.

The pandemic is yet another “painful reminder” that it is never too early to invest in robust pandemic preparedness and response, Lam added.

As such, to combat the coronavirus and future outbreaks, member states must be willing to invest early in those areas, he said.

“As member states continue to fight the battle within their countries and in their own unique way, we must also co-operate with one another, in order to accelerate the path towards winning the battle together,” said Lam.

Singapore currently has 1,481 cases of the virus, of which 377 have fully recovered and six have died.

To date, there are over 1.4 million COVID-19 cases globally. Over 83,000 have died from the virus, with Italy and Spain accounting for close to 40 per cent of the total.

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