PM’s speech in Parliament: Covid-19

Don't be lulled into letting Covid-19 guard down: PM Lee

S'pore's success has ironically made some people weary of the safety measures

Diners at Lau Pa Sat food centre on Tuesday. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, citing a recent survey by The Straits Times showing almost half of the respondents being tired of pandemic safety measures such as having to wear a mask, warned that the cor
Diners at Lau Pa Sat food centre on Tuesday. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, citing a recent survey by The Straits Times showing almost half of the respondents being tired of pandemic safety measures such as having to wear a mask, warned that the coronavirus remains infectious and potent.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong warned that Singapore cannot let its guard down in fighting Covid-19, even if the situation is getting better here.

He cited a recent survey by The Straits Times published on Aug 16 that showed almost half of the respondents were weary of pandemic safety measures.

Joining the debate on the President's Address in Parliament, PM Lee said: "The irony (is) the more successful we are in keeping cases low, the more people wonder whether all these painful measures are necessary."

The online survey of 1,000 people, representative of the Singapore resident population aged 16 and above, showed that 44 per cent were tired of following the necessary health measures.

Of those surveyed, 27 per cent said that having to wear a mask was the most frustrating virus countermeasure.

Other results of the survey include how one in five saw checking in with SafeEntry as a nuisance, while 14 per cent were unhappy about having to limit the size of physical gatherings with friends and family.

Despite the fatigue, most respondents said they largely understood the rationale behind the rules and followed them.

More than three quarters felt the measures were either proportionate to the scale of the outbreak, or "a bit strict, but reasonable".

The stable Covid-19 situation here must not lull Singaporeans into letting their guard down, said PM Lee.

He recounted to the House a recent e-mail he received from a university student, whose socialising had been disrupted.

The student complained that Singapore's response to Covid-19 was "one of the greatest overreactions to a public health issue".

  • PM on where S'pore did well, and did not

  • • The country's fatality rate is one of the lowest, daily community infections are down to a handful, and fewer than 100 patients remain in hospital.

    • Singapore avoided allowing Covid-19 to burn through the population to develop herd immunity.

    • By building up contact tracing and testing capabilities, Singapore quickly isolated patients and close contacts and tested many people daily.

    • More patients could be treated as Singapore doubled its intensive care unit capacity and set up temporary community care and isolation facilities.

    • It mobilised the Singapore Armed Forces and the Home Team to handle outbreaks in migrant worker dormitories while taking care of workers' health and welfare.

    • Singapore slowed down the spread of Covid-19 in the community by putting in place the circuit breaker.

    BUT...

    • The authorities could have quarantined all returning Singaporeans, and not just those returning from certain places, due to the risk of asymptomatic spread. They could also have tested all of them, instead of just those with symptoms.

    • Face masks could have been recommended to everyone sooner. The Government took the best available scientific advice at the time and changed its policy once the World Health Organisation recognised asymptomatic transmission was a major problem.

    • Singapore could have acted more quickly and aggressively to control the rapid spread of the disease in migrant worker dorms.

As proof, the student noted that hospitals here were far from being overwhelmed. Instead, he advocated the country let young Singaporeans "do us the service of achieving herd immunity".

"You only have to look at the situation in other cities that have let this happen to imagine how this could have turned out for us," PM Lee said.

The Prime Minister cautioned that the coronavirus remains as infectious and potent as it was before, and that this has not changed.

What has changed, however, are the measures that Singapore has taken to turn the tide against the disease, and how the country has built up its capabilities to contain it.

"If we relax these measures now because the numbers have come down, we will have a resurgence," he said, pointing to how this has happened in some cities in Europe as well as in many other places in the world.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 03, 2020, with the headline 'Don't be lulled into letting Covid-19 guard down: PM'. Print Edition | Subscribe