'No need to panic': Singapore better prepared for Wuhan virus outbreak after SARS, says PM Lee

SINGAPORE – Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Thursday (23 January) there is “no need to panic” in Singapore as the country is "much better prepared" to cope with the Wuhan virus outbreak since it experienced the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic in 2003.

Lee was speaking at the sidelines of the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland prior to the Ministry of Health (MOH) confirming the first case of the Wuhan coronavirus in Singapore.

On Thursday night, the MOH announced that a 66-year-old Chinese resident from Wuhan has the coronavirus. He arrived in Singapore from Guangzhou on Monday and was staying at Shangri-La’s Rasa Sentosa Resort & Spa.

The ministry said nine close contacts of the case have so far been identified. The man is currently warded in an isolation room at the Singapore General Hospital.

A 53-year-old Chinese woman, who arrived in Singapore from Wuhan, has been tested preliminary positive for the strain.

“We have to be prepared for this. In fact, we have been preparing for this since SARS, because after SARs, we made a thorough review of what of the facilities we had – the infrastructure, hospitals, isolation wards, and the scientific testing and capabilities. I think we are much better prepared now,” said Lee.

“Science has made a lot of progress since SARS, so this time with a new coronavirus, the scientists have been able to come up to identify and sequence it much faster than happened with SARS and share the information with other countries in a much more expeditious way,” said Lee, who added that China has improved in its handling of public health emergencies.

“It looks like this virus is not as lethal as SARS, but you do not know. It can mutate. We have to be as prepared as we can.”

A taskforce led by Health Minister Gan Kim Yong and National Development Minister Lawrence Wong has announced that there will be an expansion of Singapore’s border controls to include land and sea checkpoints. The preventive posture has been taken given the expected inflow of visitors during the Chinese New Year season and in view of the confirmed case. 

Lee said that the government is doing what it needs to do to deal with the situation.

The outbreak in Wuhan has left 17 dead and afflicted over 630 to date.

At least 15 cases have been confirmed beyond mainland China, including in Singapore, the US, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Macau.

(CREDIT: Yahoo News Singapore)

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