Measures to check coronavirus spread tightened and extended to June 1

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called on all Singaporeans to stay home as far as possible.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called on all Singaporeans to stay home as far as possible.PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM FACEBOOK

PM Lee says no room for complacency amid spread in dorms and also wider community

Circuit breaker measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus will be extended to June 1, with existing rules further tightened for the next two weeks.

This means more workplaces will be closed, reducing the number of workers who keep essential services going.

All standalone food and beverage outlets selling mainly drinks and snacks, as well as hairdressing and barber shops, were asked to shut by 11.59pm last night.

Entry restrictions are also being put in place at hot spots where large groups of people continue to gather, starting with four popular markets.

These stricter measures will last until May 4, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his fourth national address on the situation.

But it would not be possible to return to business as usual soon thereafter, and so the circuit breaker would have to be extended until June 1.

"Then, provided we have brought the community numbers down, we can make further adjustments and consider easing some measures," he said yesterday. "This way, we can be more assured that we have made definite progress and consolidated our position."

His statement, which he also delivered in Mandarin and Malay, came just before Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced that the Government will extend wage support for businesses next month, at a cost of $3.8 billion.

PM Lee acknowledged that many people, especially businesses and workers, will be disappointed by the extension of circuit breaker measures.

"But I hope you understand that this short-term pain is to stamp out the virus, protect the health and safety of our loved ones, and allow us to revive our economy," he said.

Another 1,111 new cases were reported yesterday, driven mainly by foreign workers living in dormitories who are being tested rigorously, taking the national total to 9,125.

Although the number of community cases has fallen in recent days, Singaporeans cannot afford to be complacent, PM Lee said.

"We must press on to bring down daily infections more sharply, to single digits, or even zero."

Singapore must also keep working to reduce the number of unlinked cases, he said.

"Unfortunately that number has not come down," PM Lee said. "And this suggests there is a larger, hidden reservoir of cases in the community that is the source of these unlinked cases, which we have not detected."

He called on all Singaporeans to stay home as far as possible, urging those who have to go out to do so alone and not with their family.

"Remember: It is not just about adhering to the letter of the law," he said. "The spirit of the guidelines is to reduce movement to a minimum, and to avoid being out and about in the community. This is the way to protect yourself, your family and everyone else."

PM Lee also repeated his assurance to migrants that their health and livelihood will be taken care of.

"To our migrant workers, let me emphasise again, we will care for you like we care for Singaporeans," he said.

 
 
 
 

Those with mild cases of Covid-19 are either being housed on-site, in separate facilities within dormitories, or in community care facilities elsewhere.

Those who need more active treatment will receive immediate attention and be taken promptly to the hospital, PM Lee said.

Looking ahead, he said that several things must be in place for the circuit breaker to end. The country must open up incrementally, making sure that it is safe to do so at every step.

Singapore also needs to substantially scale up testing for Covid-19 so that it can quickly detect any new cases.

"This we are beginning to do, not only by procuring test kits and equipment from other countries, but also by developing and manufacturing our own test kits," PM Lee said.

Lastly, Singapore needs to make full use of IT so that contact tracing can take place more efficiently. Apps are being developed for this purpose, but people must install them and weigh privacy concerns against the benefits of being able to exit from the circuit breaker, he said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 22, 2020, with the headline 'Measures to check virus spread tightened and extended to June 1'. Print Edition | Subscribe