Coronavirus: Singapore has no plans to go to Dorscon red, says Health Minister Gan Kim Yong

(From left) National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong and Director of Medical Services at the Ministry of Health Kenneth Mak during a press conference on Feb 14, 2020. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SINGAPORE - There are currently no plans to escalate the national disaster alert response level in relation to the ongoing coronavirus situation, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong on Friday (Feb 14).

The Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (Dorscon) level was raised from yellow to orange last Friday, amid indications that the disease known as Covid-19 was spreading in the community.

Mr Gan, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force tackling the coronavirus, said at a press conference that rumours going around that the Dorscon level will be raised again from orange to red, its highest level, impedes the Government's efforts in helping patients.

"I want to say categorically that we have no plans to go to Dorscon red. So please help me stop these rumours going forward, so that we can focus our efforts in dealing with our patients, and support them."

Mr Gan said that the battle to stop the spread of the virus is already challenging enough.

"We don't really want to have to spend efforts stopping the spread of rumours."

The Ministry of Health (MOH) has said the Dorscon categories are not cast in stone, but are general guidelines for action.

In the colour coding system, green means there are just minor problems. Yellow refers either to a mild infection, or a severe infection that is not spreading here, but about which the community needs to be careful.

Orange means the disease is severe with transmission, but is generally contained, and has moderate to high public health impact.

Red signifies an out-of-control pandemic.

On Friday, Mr Gan explained that having the Dorscon level downgraded to yellow or green involves taking into account "many factors" beyond just the Government changing its management strategy in this crisis.

"The measures... are not necessarily so closely tied to the Dorscon level. Some of the measures that we were taking when we were in yellow were already (for measures meant to be taken) in orange. And if the situation evolves such that some of the measures (can be) rolled back, we may roll back before we downgrade the Dorscon," he said.

Mr Gan added that moving the Dorscon level is a judgment call "to a very large extent", which also takes into account advice and expert inputs from professionals, and a general assessment of the situation.

"It's not an easy thing, to list out 'these are the conditions' and if you tick all the boxes, it'll be downgraded," he said.


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