PM Lee says Singapore is “much better prepared” to deal with a new virus following SARS outbreak

Source: Prime Minister's Office

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Thursday (23 January) that Singapore is now “much better prepared” to handle a new virus since the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003.

“We have been preparing for this since SARS,” he highlighted while speaking at the sidelines of the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

Mr Lee said this right before Singapore confirmed its first ever Wuhan virus in the country.

On Thursday, the Ministry of Health announced that a China national has tested positive for the Wuhan virus in the Republic. The 66-year-old man, a Wuhan resident, came to Singapore on Monday (20 January) along with nine other travelling partners.

He is reported to be in isolation at the Singapore General Hospital and is in stable condition.

The group stayed at Shangri-La’s Rasa Sentosa resort, and the hotel management revealed that all the rooms that the group stayed in have been sanitised and sealed off.

The Ministry also announced that another individual is also likely to have the virus. Preliminary tests results from the 53-year-old woman from China has also come up positive, but is still awaiting confirmation. The woman, however, is part of another tourist group.

At the time of writing, there are 830 confirmed cases and 25 people have lost their lives in China due to Wuhan virus, which is a new type of coronavirus.

“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,” explained PM Lee.

He continued, “I think we are much better prepared now,” while mentioning about the new National Centre for Infectious Diseases, which opened in late 2018.

Mr Lee also noted that Science has progressed well over the years, allowing scientists to identify and share more information about the virus now.

“Science has made a lot of progress since SARS, so this time with a new coronavirus, the scientists have been able to identify and sequence it much faster than happened with Sars and share the information with other countries in a much more expeditious way,” he said.

He added that China has also made good progress in handling such public health emergencies.

“They understand now that pretending that nothing is wrong, is not the right thing to do,” he said.

“The more open they are, the more effective they can be in dealing with it and better that they can cooperate with other countries.”

On Thursday, two cities in Hubei, which has the most number of cases reported, were put on a lock down to combat the coronavirus. Additionally, most transport in Wuhan and Huanggang were also cut off and people were told not to leave.

PM Lee also noted that Singapore has to be psychologically prepared as well as be operationally ready to respond to a virus outbreak.

“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,” he expressed.

If that’s all, PM Lee also said that an inter-ministerial committee, which is co-chaired by Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, is working hand in hand with different agencies in the country to respond in a coordinated manner.

He added that the Government was “doing what we need to do”, and urged the public to take necessary precautions and reminded them not to panic.

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