In his annual Chinese New Year message last month (24 Jan) when first cases of COVID-19 infections began to appear in Singapore, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told Singaporeans that this was to be expected, given the high volume of international travel here.
“But we are well prepared, because we have been gearing up for such a situation ever since we dealt with SARS in 2003,” he said.
He also said that the new COVID-19 virus does not appear to be as deadly as SARS.
“MOH has now activated plans to counter the spread of the virus, which so far does not appear to be as deadly as SARs was. Singaporeans should be calm but watchful as we implement measures to keep everybody safe and healthy,” he added.
“The Year of the Rat begins a new cycle of the Chinese zodiac. We look forward to the opportunity to refresh ourselves and start anew. Let us learn something from the proverbial nimbleness, creativity and wit of the rat.”
COVID-19 death toll leaps past 1,600
However, as of today (17 Feb), it was reported that the worldwide death toll of COVID-19 has exceeded 1700, with China recording 1,772 deaths and, Taiwan, Philippines, Hong Kong, Japan and France recording 1 each.
Several countries have banned arrivals from China and major airlines have cut services to the country. More than 70,000 people have now been infected in China with the virus spreading to some two dozen other countries in the world.
Comparing to SARS outbreak in 2002-2003, only 8,098 people were infected with a smaller death toll at 774 worldwide.
Hence, the death toll from the present COVID-19 infections is more than 2 times that of SARS.
Meanwhile, the Singapore government continues to maintain that one should not wear a mask if one is well.