When it comes to completely eradicating the deadly novel coronavirus in Singapore, a two-week lockdown is not the “magic solution”, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong on Tuesday (31 March).
When he was asked at a press conference on why Singapore has not been in a lockdown, Mr Wong said: “There is a view, I think, that people sometimes say, ‘why don’t you just..don’t have to wait, just go for the drastic measures now, go for the so-called lockdown today, do it for two weeks then life can go back to normal’.
“There is no magic solution as (a) two-week lockdown and then we are free from the virus. It will not happen.”
Many countries around the global had resorted to a complete lockdown or focus heavily on restricting people’s movement, including Malaysia and Indonesia, in order to slow down the spreading on the virus.
Although Mr Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministerial task force to handle the COVID-19 situation, opined that Singapore could have taken “more drastic measures sooner”, but he said that that “will not eradicate the virus”.
“It will still be with us and we will still have to continue with this set of measures – like what we are today – for maybe months,” the Minister said.
He added, “So we are in this for the long haul. We have to prepare that we have to deal with this situation for quite a long period of time.”
Mr Wong also went on to state that the Republic will be “exposed continuously to recurring waves of infection from around the world” and local transmission in the country will continue due to this.
“(It) is not just one month, two months, but potentially all the way until the end of the year and beyond,” Mr Wong explained.
He continued, “So, we have to find measures that can control, slow down the virus and do so in a way that is sustainable – not just for two weeks, two months, but all the way through to the end of the year.”
Singapore has also announced a number of measures to control the spreading of the virus, including safe-distancing and stay-home notices for all travellers, and more.
Additionally, Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo also said on Tuesday that some amendments will be made to the regulations so that employers are doing everything in their power to encourage workers to telecommute, rather than coming into the office.
A number of “brakes” to be placed
When Mr Wong was asked if there will be “trigger point” for when a lockdown may be imposed in Singapore, he said that a “series of brakes” can be put in place if the situation permits.
“Rather than use a phrase which means different things to different people – because people have different interpretations of what a lockdown means – we look at the measures specifically and what these measures imply,” Mr Wong said.
The Minister said that the task force has put out baseline measures that will continue for sustained periods, as well as “extra brakes” in addition to those measures.
As of now, Singapore has implemented “moderate brakes” like suspending large-scale gathering and safe-distancing measures to deal with the spreading of the virus in the country.
“We will not see the benefits of these measures until one or two weeks later, so it’s a bit too early to say the measures are not working,” he said.
He added, “Whatever cases we are seeing now … symptoms came a week ago. You have to look forward and look at the data (that) we will continue to monitor and look at what happens to the trends of local cases, unlinked cases over the next one, two weeks.”
Based on the indicators, the task force will then apply “extra brakes”.
As such, Mr Wong said that there’s no any magic two-week solution to this problem. If the situation improves, then the Government may remove some of the measures, he said.
“There is no magic two-week solution to this. These brakes have to be applied for a sustained period. If the situation improves, we remove some brakes. But even as we remove these brakes, we will not go back to zero,” he said.
He added, “We will still need a set of precautions – could be baseline, could be more than baseline – but if the situation does not improve, then we apply extra brakes.”
He also stated that this “posture” of placing and removing brakes will go on for a long period of time, until at least the end of the year.