Singapore will extend its COVID-19 “circuit breaker” measures until 1 June, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong today.
In a televised address on Tue (21 April), Mr Lee noted that while the majority of Singaporeans and residents have been complying with the measures, the total number of cases have “risen sharply” since the onset of the outbreak in Singapore.
The majority of the spike in cases, he said, stemmed from clusters formed in migrant worker dormitories.
Despite the spike in cases from the migrant worker dormitories’ clusters, Mr Lee said that the clusters “have not spread to the wider community”.
COVID-19 tests on migrant workers residing in dormitories have been conducted aggressively not only for those who are visibly symptomatic, but also for those who appear well and asymptomatic, said Mr Lee.
“Almost all the migrant workers infected have only mild symptoms. This is not surprising as they are generally young, and thus much less likely to become seriously ill with COVID-19,” he added.
“It is early days yet, but thankfully, so far none of the new cases of migrant workers have needed supplemental oxygen, or intensive care,” Mr Lee added.
While all of the major migrant worker dormitories in Singapore are currently supported by “dedicated teams of doctors and nurses”, Mr Lee said that the government will ramp up medical resources in the dorms by deploying more healthcare personnel “to make sure that anyone with fever or flu symptoms receives appropriate and timely medical treatment”.
“We will house the mild cases either on site, in a separate facility within the dorm, or in community care facilities elsewhere. And we will make sure that those who need more active treatment receive immediate attention, and can be sent promptly to the hospital to help them recover,” he assured.
Mr Lee added that “special attention” will be given to older workers who are more susceptible to the virus by “moving them to a separate dorm, where they can be monitored more closely”.
The Prime Minister also said that the Government is also monitoring two subsets of migrant workers, namely those living in shophouses, private housing, or HDB flats; and those who are employed in essential services.
The latter group, said Mr Lee, is “still working during the circuit breaker, helping to keep Singapore going”.
“Some are cleaning the HDB blocks or hawker centres. Others are maintaining key infrastructure like our broadband networks.”
“If these workers move in and out of dorms, they become potential channels for cross-infection … Hence, we are housing these essential workers separately,” he said.
The Government will also conduct tests to detect any infections at an early stage and to ensure that such workers are healthy.
“To our migrant workers, let me emphasise again: We will care for you, just like we care for Singaporeans,” he said, adding that the Government will work with the employers of migrant workers to ensure that the workers receive their salaries and be able to remit money to their home countries.
More workplaces to close to reduce number of staff running essential services: PM Lee
Tighter regulations will be rolled out during the remaining circuit breaker period, including the closure of more workplaces to downsize the number of staff running essential services.
“It will mean some degradation of services … For example, less frequent grass cutting in our HDB estates. But I hope we all understand why this has to be done.
“We will implement these tighter measures until 4th May. But we will not be able to completely lift the restrictions after that, and go back to business as usual,” said Mr Lee.
Mr Lee acknowledged that while many people will be disappointed by the extension of the circuit breaker, particularly businesses and employees in particular “who are hurting greatly”, this “short-term pain” is crucial in Singapore’s efforts to “stamp out the virus, protect the health and safety of our loved ones, and allow us to revive our economy”.
He reiterated the importance of staying at home as much as possible during the circuit breaker period, and for people to carry out activities such as buying groceries and exercising outdoors alone instead of with other people.
“It is not just about adhering to the letter of the law … The spirit of the guidelines is to reduce movement to a minimum, and to avoid being out and about in the community.
“This is the way to protect yourself, your family and everyone else,” said Mr Lee.
S’pore must “open up incrementally”, increase COVID-19 testing, harness IT to enhance contact testing after circuit breaker: PM Lee
Touching on what’s next after the circuit breaker ends, Mr Lee said that Singapore must firstly “open up incrementally, in small steps, making sure that we are safe each step of the way”.
“This is what New Zealand and Germany are beginning to do very cautiously,” he said. “They don’t want to open up prematurely after lockdowns, only to find COVID-19 coming back, and then be forced to lock down a second time.”
Secondly, Singapore needs to “scale up testing for COVID-19 substantially, so that we can quickly detect any new cases that pop up”, said Mr Lee.
“This we are beginning to do, not only by procuring test kits and equipment from other countries, but also by developing and manufacturing our own test kits,” he said.
Thirdly, Singapore needs to harness the power of information technology in order to increase the efficiency of contact tracing.
“We have the TraceTogether app, and we are currently developing other apps for this purpose … For these to work, we will need everyone’s cooperation to install and use these apps, like what the South Koreans have done.
“There will be some privacy concerns, but we will have to weigh these against the benefits of being able to exit from the circuit breaker and stay open safely,” said Mr Lee.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) today confirmed an additional 1,111 cases of COVID-19 infection in Singapore as of 12 pm.
Of the new cases, 20 are Singaporeans and permanent residents, while the rest comprises migrant workers living in dormitories.
This brings the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Singapore to 9,125.
MOH said, however, that the number of new cases in the larger Singapore community has decreased, from an average of 39 cases per day in the week prior to an average of 29 per day in the past week.
The number of unlinked cases in the community has remained relatively constant, with a daily average of 20 cases for the past two weeks.