Second lockdown would leave Singaporeans 'angsty and fractious': PM Lee

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong with Ho Meng Kit, CEO of the Singapore Business Federation, at the recording for the APEC CEO Dialogues 2020
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong with Ho Meng Kit, CEO of the Singapore Business Federation, at the recording for the APEC CEO Dialogues 2020. (PHOTO:MCI)

SINGAPORE — The Singapore government is working overtime to avoid imposing a second lockdown, as such a move would leave the population “angsty and fractious”, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday (19 November).

“I think the psychology on the population, if we had to do that would be a very big impact, and people will be discouraged, maybe demoralised, certainly will be angsty and fractious. It is not easy to maintain solidarity in the face of a threat, which keeps on being there, going away and coming back again, going away and coming back again,” said Lee.

Speaking in a pre-recorded dialogue with Singapore Business Federation chief executive officer Ho Meng Kit on “The Future of Global Growth” for the APEC CEO Dialogues 2020, Lee was responding to a question on whether Asian countries’ approach towards controlling the pandemic had worked better than that of Western countries.

The PM had earlier noted that in Europe and America, countries had reopened their economies during the summer, but were now into their second wave of infection. By contrast, Asian countries were “more conservative” and locked down, which had greater economic impact.

In response, the 68-year-old said only time would tell which approach works better, adding, “It is a very wily bug and very hard to eradicate.” Nevertheless, the Republic cannot keep its borders completely closed indefinitely. “There has to be traffic, there has to be business, people need to travel. Therefore, we are exposed to the outside world and COVID-19 is all over the world. And so, we must expect cases to keep on coming in, and we have to be vigilant in dealing with them when they pop up. “

‘Lasting changes’ from COVID-19

Lee, who has been PM since 2004, also said that it would take several years before Singapore and the world can return to “normal”. In the Northern Hemisphere, cases are currently continuing to grow, even as winter is on the horizon.

“Even if you start having a vaccine by beginning of next year, by the time it gets rolled out to a significant proportion of the population and has an impact in slowing down the spread of the disease, it will be probably 2022,” said Lee, who added that he did not think normal travel would resume next year.

And even after COVID-19 is gone, there will be “lasting changes”, said Lee. “People have gotten used to working remotely, doing business online, trading, buying things, making commitments online, and traveling less. I think those will be lasting impacts.”

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