Parliament: S'pore has to move faster to limit coronavirus spread, says Lawrence Wong

Measures to increase social distancing have been introduced but there remain anecdotes of people going to nightspots and gathering in large groups, raising worries of super-spreader events. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SINGAPORE - Singapore has introduced its latest set of measures to increase social distancing because there remain anecdotes of people going to nightspots and gathering together in large groups, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong.

Such behaviour is why the Government has applied another set of "brakes" that will kick in at 11.59pm on Thursday (March 26) to limit gatherings outside of work and school to fewer than 10 people, he told the House on Wednesday.

"We have to move faster - we still hear anecdotes of people going to discos and night clubs, and gathering together in large groups - our big worry is that these can become super-spreader events, spawning new clusters and potential runaway outbreaks," he said.

The stricter safe-distancing measures include the cancellation or deferment of all mass gatherings.

This includes the suspension of entertainment venues such as bars and cinemas, tuition centres, and all religious services.

Restrictions have also been placed on malls, museums and attractions.

"We recognise the inconvenience and disruption that these measures will bring to people's lives, and to businesses, but we have no easy options," said Mr Wong.

"This is the reality that all countries are facing in tackling the virus - the more we try to flatten the curve, the steeper will be the damage on our economies."

Mr Wong also reiterated his call for Singaporeans to defer all travel, noting that the Government has raised the travel advisory to the highest level.

Those who still choose to go overseas will have to pay full costs should they need treatment for Covid-19 when they return, and likewise foot the bill for their 14-day self-isolation at a hotel.

Underpinning these social-distancing efforts is the need for all Singaporeans to take individual and social responsibility, as "the fight against the virus cannot be done by front-line workers or government agencies alone", said Mr Wong.

He called on Singaporeans to uphold personal hygiene, see a doctor and rest if unwell, and minimise non-essential activities and contact with others.

Mr Wong also said the Government has not ruled out more drastic measures should the number of infected cases continue to rise, despite the current safeguards.

These include the need to suspend schools and close workplaces, he said.

"We will keep the measures under constant review," he said. "If the situation worsens, we will apply extra brakes; if the situation improves, we can ease off and go back.

"Not to zero, but to a less stringent set of measures, because the pandemic will probably still not be over for quite a while," he added.

As he started to thank healthcare workers and "many more unsung heroes" in industries such as cleaning, transport and essential services, an emotional Mr Wong began to tear.

After a two-minute break - and thumps of encouragement from MPs in the House - a wet-eyed Mr Wong went on.

"Words are not sufficient to express our appreciation for so many Singaporeans going all out to fight the virus," he said. "And I just want to say a big thank you to everyone who is doing their part."

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