My fellow Singaporeans,
I spoke to you on TV last week to explain why we needed to implement a circuit breaker. We anticipated a rise in our local Covid-19 cases, especially more unlinked cases that we are unable to trace. We also worried about more cases and clusters emerging in foreign worker dormitories. Unfortunately, in the week since then, these have happened.
We have seen outbreaks in several foreign worker dormitories. Many dorms have cases, and some dorms have many cases. We have responded comprehensively to contain the spread in the dorms, and to protect the foreign workers.
Yesterday, ministers Lawrence Wong and Gan Kim Yong explained what we are doing. They have set up an inter-agency task force to handle the situation in the dorms.
Ministry of Health, Ministry of Manpower, the SAF, the Home Team, all are involved.
The commander of the task force is the Chief Guards Officer from the army, and Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean is advising the ministers on this issue.
The task force has deployed forward assurance and support teams in all the dorms. These teams work closely with the dorm operators and can respond quickly to the workers' essential needs. They are setting up medical facilities and triage clinics, bringing in supplies and food, and managing the logistics and housekeeping. They are making sure the workers have food and water, and Wi-Fi to keep in touch with families back home and friends here, and for entertainment. The SAF and the Home Team have the resources and the organisation to do this. Many other public service agencies are also chipping in.
We are paying close attention to the welfare of the foreign workers. They came to Singapore to work hard for a living and provide for their families back home. They have played an important part building our HDB flats, Changi Airport, MRT lines. We have worked with their employers to make sure they will be paid their salaries, and can remit money home. We will provide them with the medical care and treatment that they need.
If any of their family members watch my video, let me say this to them: We appreciate the work and contributions of your sons, fathers, husbands in Singapore.
We feel responsible for their well-being. We will do our best to take care of their health, livelihood and welfare here, and to let them go home, safe and sound, to you.
On behalf of all Singaporeans, I wish you well.
Outside the dorms, the number of cases in the general community has also gone up. Many of these cases are unlinked. We do not know how they got infected, or from whom. So the persons who infected them are probably still out there, and still infecting more people. As I explained last week, we expected this to happen, and to see the numbers go up even after the circuit breaker took effect. The reason is most of these cases were probably infected earlier, before the circuit breaker started.
And this is precisely why we need the circuit breaker. If we all reduce our contact with one another, we also reduce our chances of catching or transmitting the virus.
This will slow down new infections, both linked and unlinked, and after a while the number of new cases will fall.
This has been the experience of countries like China, South Korea and New Zealand. They all adopted similar tough measures after a surge in infections. But it will take some time. I spoke to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand yesterday on the phone. New Zealand has implemented a stringent lockdown. She told me that when they did this, it was only on day 11 that they started to see new cases coming down. So we have to be patient, but we also have to be resolute.
This is why I need each of you to take the circuit breaker very seriously. Stay at home; stop socialising in person with others, even with extended family members who do not live with you. Keep in touch with them but by other means, for example, online, on the phone, writing e-mails or even letters. But do not make physical contact, because that is how the virus is spread. Please comply not just with the letter of the rules, but their spirit.
PROTECTING THE ELDERLY
Some of you have elderly parents who live alone and need your help to go about their daily lives. We understand your concerns. There is some flexibility in the law to accommodate your situation, but if it is at all possible, do not visit between households, not even close kin, not even elderly parents. For example, if you need the grandparents' help for childcare, then let your kids stay with the grandparents for this period. Do not drop them off and pick them up every day. This is to protect our seniors, and also to protect other people in Singapore.
I want to make a special appeal to older Singaporeans. I am one of you, so I know how you feel. When we are cooped up at home, we get restless and frustrated. We want to meet our friends, visit our grandchildren, stretch our legs, and resume our familiar routines - qigong sessions, karaoke groups, hanging out for kopi or a beer with friends. But please understand: We are telling you to stay at home for your own safety. Older people are more vulnerable to the virus. If we catch Covid-19, it is a serious matter. Our chances of dying are much higher, and if we get infected and spread the virus to our friends around our age, or bring the virus back home to our families, then we put them in grave danger.
So please stay home. Use this chance to spend more time with your family or watch your favourite TV programmes. If you need anything from outside, ask others to get it for you. If you have really no choice but to go out for food or necessities, make sure you wear a mask and stay a safe distance away from everyone else. Do not linger and do not dawdle - come home once you have completed your errand.
Today is Good Friday. For Christians, it is a special time to reflect on the sacrifice of Christ. For Singaporeans, it is a time to acknowledge the sacrifices of our front-line workers, since Covid-19 broke out in Singapore. And for every one of us, it is a time to make our own sacrifices, to observe the circuit breaker strictly, in order to stop the virus from spreading among us.
I know the measures are very inconvenient. They also come at high cost to our economy. But the more strictly we observe the restrictions, the faster they will work, and the sooner we can ease up on them. If some of us fail to comply strictly with the measures, the circuit breaker will fail, then all our inconvenience, pain and sacrifice will have been in vain. Covid-19 is very contagious. It only takes a few people to let down their guard, and the virus will slip through. We need everyone to play their part.
The next few weeks will be tough. I will speak to you like this from time to time, so that you know what the real situation is, what we are thinking, what you can expect and how you can play your part to fight this virus.
The situation will get worse before it gets better, but we have to get through this, before the sun comes out and shines on us again. For us to get there as soon as possible, please stay at home. Thank you for your cooperation.