COVID-19: Take 'circuit breaker' period seriously, can save lives – Lawrence Wong

SINGAPORE – Stay home, unless you work in an essential service, are buying groceries or exercising.

Minister for National Development and COVID-19 multi-ministry taskforce co-chair Lawrence Wong did not mince words when he spoke at a taskforce press briefing on Sunday (5 April).

“The points should be very clear: if your business is not in the list of essential services, then you either have to telecommute 100 per cent, or you stop work altogether. There are no two ways about this. It's straightforward,” he said of the upcoming set of “circuit-breaking” measures that will take effect on Tuesday.

Wong added, “Likewise for individuals, the rules are very clear: you stay home. Do not go out, go out only for essential activities, which would include work that is considered essential, or buying food and groceries, or if you were to do an individual exercise or with your immediate family member, these are allowed.”

“Other than that, you have to stay home.”

He made these remarks as Singapore confirmed a single-day high of 120 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, of which 116 were locally transmitted. This brings the total number of novel coronavirus infections in the country to 1,309.

Emerging clusters are also occurring within foreign worker dormitories, and the government has taken steps to contain these.

“I think making these adjustments will be difficult. We understand it's not easy. Many Singaporeans have set routines and habits,” said Wong, who acknowledged that the elderly like to socialise in hawker centers and coffeeshops, while young people tend to frequent malls.

“But all of this cannot be tolerated anymore,” he emphasised. “So we really need everyone to make individual sacrifices, make these necessary adjustments for this one month period of circuit breaker to be effective.

“And again, if we all do our parts, if we all work together, we have a chance of controlling the spread of the virus and together, we will be able to protect ourselves, our family members and save lives.”

On Friday, the government had announced that the circuit breaker includes the closure of most workplaces, except for essential services and those in key economic sectors. Educational institutions will also close and roll out full home-based learning from Wednesday.

Ring-fencing and containment

There has been an increasing number of clusters in the past few days, said MOH's director of medical services Kenneth Mak, and this reflects to some extent “the fact that a number of individuals have been exposed and subsequently manifesting with infection” before authorities could ring fence and isolate them.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong added, “As we see more clusters and more cases, it is important to take this circuit breaker very seriously. This will help us minimise the number of unliked cases. Even if there are clusters forming, we will be able to help to stop the transmission going forward and therefore, contain the size of the cluster.”

“Very often, I find people asking me, ‘Can I do this? Can I do that? Can I go to the park, can I share a meal with my friends, I miss them very much’. All these are very important things,” he said.

But, he concluded, “And the question is not whether you can do so, but whether do you need to do so.”

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