Asian Insider, Feb 14: Singapore’s total defence against the coronavirus

Asian Insider brings you insights into a fast-changing region from our network of correspondents.

Hi,

In today’s bulletin: Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen says Singapore can contain the coronavirus outbreak with its national defence framework. This is important because the current crisis has hit Singapore’s economy more than what Sars did in 2003.

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SINGAPORE’S TOTAL DEFENCE AGAINST THE CORONAVIRUS

Singapore can contain the spread of the coronavirus through Total Defence and keep going, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said. “In some countries, this fear created distrust and divided people. But in Singapore, we rallied through Total Defence, stayed united, overcame the Sars crisis to emerge intact and stronger," he said. The national defence framework – comprising economic, social, psychological, military, digital and civil defence - has to come into action again against the coronavirus, Dr Ng said.

Support for healthcare workers

In a Valentine's Day note, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong thanked all doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers for looking after their patients every day.

Moulmein-Cairnhill Constituency Office has launched a project that allows nurses in their uniform to enjoy priority queues at 33 participating stalls in Pek Kio Market and Food Centre.

CRISIS UPDATES   

Impact on economy: The coronavirus outbreak has hit Singapore's economy more than what the Sars outbreak did in 2003, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said, adding that a recession could be a possibility.

Schools stay open: There are no plans to close schools in Singapore yet, said Education Minister Ong Ye Kung.

Science and Health Editor Chang Ai-Lien on why there is no need for Singapore to adopt China’s new clinical diagnosis method for suspected patients. The new clinical test in China resulted in a huge spike in cases this week.  

Indochina Bureau Chief Tan Hui Yee reports that some regional officials have agonised over the question of whether to restrict entry to travellers from China, wary that a riled Beijing could put the brakes on crucial tourism spending and trade after the virus is brought under control.

Race to find treatment: China's state-owned medical products maker is collecting plasma from the blood of people who have recovered from the coronavirus after discovering it helped critically ill patients.

Misinformation causing fear: The spread of fake news is making the coronavirus crisis worse

E-commerce is not spared: Alibaba Group Holding warned of a drop in revenues at its key e-commerce businesses this quarter as the crisis hits supply chains and deliveries.

Attacked for wearing face masks: Fear of the new disease has led to assaults and bullying of Asians in California

The Asian Insider Video: US Bureau Chief Nirmal Ghosh interviews Pulitzer-winning science writer Laurie Garrett on how to avoid the new coronavirusYou can also read his report here.

ANWAR IBRAHIM REAFFIRMS THAT HE WILL BE PRIME MINISTER AFTER APEC MEETING

Malaysia Correspondent Trinna Leong reports Malaysian politician Anwar Ibrahim says Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad will remain in power until after the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) meetings are over in November. "I am inclined towards him leading the country until the Apec ends. But this matter would be finalised by the Pakatan Harapan presidential council meeting on Feb 21," Datuk Seri Anwar said in a statement.

SEE ALSO: Malaysia Bureau Chief Shannon Teoh’s insights to the political tension over the Mahathir-Anwar handover

JOKOWI SEEKS MORE CONTROL OVER INDONESIA WITH NEW LAWS

Indonesia moved a step closer to passing a series of sweeping reforms that will effectively strengthen President Joko Widodo's control over economic policy in a bid to boost investment. The government this week submitted to the parliament a so-called omnibus Bill on job creation after missing several deadlines in the face of nationwide street protests by workers' unions.

SEE ALSO: Indonesian lawmakers to debate omnibus laws to boost the economy

HOW SINGAPORE IS WOOING WORLD’S BIGGEST MONEY MANAGERS

Singapore wants some of the world's biggest money managers to call its tropical shores home. In January, the city-state rolled out a new corporate structure designed to make it more attractive for international firms to domicile funds in the nation. The law, known as the Variable Capital Companies Act, makes it easier for overseas and domestic entities to register funds in Singapore if they have a locally based fund manager.

READ MORE: World's biggest hedge fund returns found in Singapore

CLIMATE CHANGE: RISING SEAS POSE RISKS TO THE COASTLINES OF MANILA AND SAN FRANCISCO

What do you do when the sea comes for your home, your school, your church? You could try to hold back the water. Or you could raise your house. Or you could just leave. Many people face the risks right now: the San Francisco Bay Area (population seven million) and metropolitan Manila (almost 14 million).

Global warming

Hottest January on record: Land and ocean surface temperatures surpassed the 20th century January average of 53.6 degrees Fahrenheit (12 deg C) by 2.05 degrees.

South Pole woes: Scientists in Antarctica have recorded a new record temperature of 20.75 deg C, breaking the barrier of 20 degrees for the first time on the continent.

North Korea’s Ski resort: The country reported that higher-than-usual temperatures are causing "abnormal” climatic changes.

LOVE, NOT VIRUS, IS IN THE AIR

Thailand:  Some 3,000 students gathered in Thailand's Ayutthaya province to send Valentine's Day wishes to China. “China keep fighting," students and teachers of Jirasat Wittaya School chanted, as they stood with a pair of elephants in a heart formation in a courtyard.

Hong Kong: A third of respondents to a customer survey by local matchmaking service Hong Kong Romance Dating said surgical masks and hand sanitiser were the Valentine's Day gifts they were most hoping for.

Singapore: Lifestyle Journalist Amanda Chai talks to power couples who found love through office romance.

Thank you for reading the Asian Insider, and for being a reader of The Straits Times.

Happy Valentine’s Day and see you again on Monday.    

Ooi Boon