Putting S’pore on lockdown “a very extreme measure”, not necessary if multiple lines of defences tightened, says National Development Minister Lawrence Wong

Putting S’pore on lockdown “a very extreme measure”, not necessary if multiple lines of defences tightened, says National Development Minister Lawrence Wong

Placing Singapore under lockdown is currently “a very extreme measure” at this point and will not be necessary if the country’s multiple lines of defence can be tightened, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong.

Mr Wong was responding to a question at a press briefing on Tue night (17 Mar) on whether Singapore would consider taking a similar measure such as the movement control order imposed by Malaysia, which will begin tomorrow for two weeks.

The co-chairman of the multi-ministry taskforce for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation said that while Singapore “will not rule anything out”, Singaporeans “should not think of us as planning” for a lockdown at this point.

“It’s certainly a very extreme measure, and we don’t think we need to get there if we do all the things we have been doing, we have been advocating, and we do them well,” said Mr Wong.

Measures such as closing down schools and workplaces “on a temporary basis over a period of two to three weeks, just as the Malaysians have done”, he said, would be more feasible at this point in time.

“So there is a whole range of measures that we have in our toolkit, and we constantly monitor the environment, the risk situation, and then we will adjust our measures,” added Mr Wong.

The Malaysian government on Mon night (16 Mar) announced a nationwide restricted movement order in its efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin in a televised address said that the order will take effect starting tomorrow until the end of this month on 31 Mar.

The order, made under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 and the Police Act 1967, will see tightened border controls by imposing prohibitions on both outbound and inbound travel.

Malaysians are not allowed to travel outside the country throughout the imposition of the order, and citizens who have recently returned from overseas are required to undergo health tests and a 14-day self-quarantine.

Tourists and other foreign visitors will not be allowed to enter Malaysia during the period in which the order takes effect.

All business premises, schools and higher learning institutions, and other forms of premises whether public or private, as well as places of worship are subject to the order and will be required to shut down during the stipulated period.

Exemptions, however, apply to all essential services such as utilities, telecommunications, postal services, transport, broadcasting, financial and banking services, and health services — among several other sectors.

Supermarkets and other businesses selling food supplies will also be exempted from the shutdown requirement during the order.

Mr Wong said at the press briefing on Tue night that the Malaysian government had given Singapore “some heads up” before announcing the restrictions.

“They probably realised given the severity, given the seriousness, this was something they had to do. And we understand why,” said Mr Wong.

“They did what was necessary, and like I said, a measure like this will cause inconvenience, will cause disruptions.

“But in some ways, if you look at it and what has been done, it will help to control the transmission of the virus across the border,” said Mr Wong.

“I think if we were facing a similar situation we would have to consider very stringent measures as well,” he added.

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