Forum: Step up Asean cooperation to tackle virus outbreak

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the Covid-19 outbreak a pandemic, urging all nations to quickly ramp up their efforts to contain and mitigate it, with the possibility of changing its course.

Swift and decisive prevention and containment measures taken by our Government two months ago have produced very good results here.

There was a multi-billion dollar economic stimulus package, with another being prepared, to help workers and businesses shoulder the hardship and save jobs. The Government is prepared to spend even more if needed.

Singaporeans are supportive of the measures and are confident that we are able to keep the outbreak under control here.

At the end of last month, Asean and China reached an agreement to cooperate in tackling the outbreak, and the resulting impact on the flows of people and goods.

With the outbreak being labelled a pandemic now, Asean has to re-examine the new situation.

Regional nations should treat the crisis as a mutual one, regardless of the varied severity in individual nations. We should join forces to tackle it without expecting outside help.

We have to identify where the weakest links are in the region - such as places where the virus is fast spreading and tracing and isolating procedures are not effective, or medical and other resources are inadequate to cope with the situation.

Correct timing and planning is crucial.

The outbreak will not be a short one. A protracted regional crisis would push our economy into a longer slump.

Situated in the centre of the region and, given its close contacts with regional nations, Singapore has to fight the battle beyond its territory.

Singapore has the capability to play a pivotal role in this crisis.

Albert Ng Ya Ken