No need for another Covid-19 circuit breaker for now: Lawrence Wong

An empty Shenton Way on the first day of the circuit breaker on April 7, 2020. There is no need to impose such measures at the moment, said Minister Lawrence Wong. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Singapore's Covid-19 situation right now is not the same as it was when the nation first entered the circuit breaker in April last year - so there is no need to impose such measures at the moment, said Education Minister Lawrence Wong on Tuesday (May 4).

Mr Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19, was speaking at a virtual press conference where he announced tighter measures to curb the spread of the virus here.

"Effectively... the measures will bring us back to phase two for a few weeks from May 8 to May 30. This is not a circuit breaker," he said.

He was later asked by The Straits Times why the task force had decided not to impose another circuit breaker, given the worsening pandemic and the rise in unlinked cases and local clusters.

In response, Mr Wong said that based on the number of unlinked cases and the results of Singapore's sentinel surveillance programme, the current situation is more like the early phase of the outbreak in February and March last year, when Singapore saw "a sprinkling of community cases throughout our community".

"So there is a qualitative difference in the situation assessment by our public health experts," he said.

In addition, Singapore's capabilities today are much better than they were before the circuit breaker period last year.

"We have more testing capabilities. We also have better contact tracing capabilities, where we are able to move in faster, identify the potential close contacts, and even the wider ring of possible exposures and get everyone tested so that we can more quickly ring-fence the cases and prevent further spread of the virus," said Mr Wong, adding that he believed Singapore will be able to "snuff out" the current clusters.

"But as an additional pre-emptive step, we are taking this move that we have just described, bringing the whole suite of measures back to phase two and taking a much tighter posture overall. And we believe that if we do that, and if everyone cooperates from now to May 30 or end of May, we have a good chance of bringing cases down and getting things back on control," he added.

But Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, who co-chairs the task force, cautioned that the authorities have not ruled out the possibility of a circuit breaker.

He said: "Certainly, we hope that we won't get there and we must do what we can with this set of measures that we have just announced, and with the cooperation and support of all Singaporeans, I think we probably will be able to avoid having to get to a circuit breaker situation.

"But we cannot rule that out and that is why we will continue to have to remain vigilant and monitor the situation and adjust our measures as we go along."

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