PM’s speech in Parliament: Covid-19

Covid-19 not Singapore's last health crisis, as PM Lee warns of Disease X

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that while Covid-19 has been a disaster for the world, "it is by far not the worst new disease that can befall mankind". He added that Singapore must learn from the Covid-19 experience and be ready when a worse one
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that while Covid-19 has been a disaster for the world, "it is by far not the worst new disease that can befall mankind". He added that Singapore must learn from the Covid-19 experience and be ready when a worse one hits the country. ST FILE PHOTO

Covid-19 will not be Singapore's last public health crisis, and the country can apply lessons it has learnt in managing this disease to prepare for future pandemics, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

He noted that scientists talk about Disease X - a new unknown disease that is highly infectious, deadly and mutates easily - being overdue. When Covid-19 started to spread around the world, PM Lee said people asked if Disease X had arrived.

"Covid-19 has been a disaster for the world, but it is not Disease X," said PM Lee during the debate on the President's Address in Parliament yesterday.

"It is by far not the worst new disease that can befall mankind."

PM Lee noted that in the 17 years since the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak, the Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers), H1N1 and Ebola have all emerged as threats. H1N1 was highly transmissible but mostly mild, Mers was fortunately not very transmissible, and Ebola remained confined in some African countries.

Disease X represents the knowledge that a serious international epidemic could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease, according to the World Health Organisation.

He warned that it is only a matter of time before Disease X happens, and Singapore should be prepared.

"So we had better learn from Covid-19, how to deal with a pandemic, and be as ready as we can, should a worse one - when a worse one - befalls us," said PM Lee.

"We should build up our resilience, our instincts, our preparations. So that when Disease X comes one day, we will be prepared."

 
 
 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 03, 2020, with the headline 'Covid-19 not nation's last health crisis, as PM warns of Disease X'. Print Edition | Subscribe