Concerns rise over Mr Lee Kuan Yew's worsening condition

Crowds gathered at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and social media was abuzz yesterday after news broke that former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew was critically ill.

The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said in a statement yesterday afternoon that the health of Mr Lee, who is in SGH's intensive care unit, had deteriorated further.

The update prompted a flurry of condolences and activity online.

Last night, screenshots were circulated of a fake website bearing the PMO logo and announcing Mr Lee's death.

The PMO said it is lodging a police report about the hoax site and added that no new information had been released about Mr Lee's condition since the afternoon.

The hoax led some foreign outlets, including CNN and China's CCTV, Sina and Phoenix Chinese News to report that Mr Lee had died, only to retract the reports later.

CNN Breaking News said in a tweet shortly after 10pm that Mr Lee had died, citing a "government website". But 10 minutes later, it tweeted: "Reports emerge that statement attributed to Singapore government about Lee Kuan Yew may not be official."

Sina and Phoenix apologised for the mistake.

Mr Lee, 91, was visited yesterday by family members and relatives, including his eldest child, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, 63, and grandson Lee Yipeng, 32.

The hospital lobby was crowded with journalists, some flying in from around the region, including those from Japan's NHK TV and the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper as well as Phoenix Chinese News.

The media scrum drew many onlookers. Kindergarten teacher Rose Teng was visiting a relative at SGH when she saw the crowd and decided to join them: "Singapore wouldn't be what it is today without Mr Lee Kuan Yew."

Online, there was an outpouring of good wishes for modern Singapore's founding prime minister to get well soon, including from ministers and MPs.

PM Lee's Facebook update on his father's health drew more than 2,000 comments within hours. Ms Elizabeth Ting wrote: "Please recover and attend SG50 National Day Parade."

Said Chua Chu Kang GRC MP Alex Yam: "Please keep him and his family in your thoughts and prayers at this difficult moment."

Mr Lee's worsening health was first announced on Tuesday, when the PMO said he had an infection and was being treated with antibiotics. It said doctors were monitoring his condition.

Mr Lee has been in hospital since Feb 5 with severe pneumonia. On Feb 28, the PMO said his condition had improved slightly, and he remained on antibiotics. It also said he continued to be sedated and on mechanical ventilation. 

yuenc@sph.com.sg

Additional reporting by Walter Sim