Coronavirus: Leaders urge Singaporeans to heed social distancing rules

A crowd at Plaza Singapura on March 21, 2020.
A crowd at Plaza Singapura on March 21, 2020.ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

Singaporeans can do a lot more to keep themselves and their families safe, national leaders said yesterday, as the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced the first two deaths here from Covid-19.

Even as they expressed condolences to the families of the two patients who died, President Halimah Yacob, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and several other ministers called on Singaporeans to heed social distancing rules.

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing, who is in charge of the public service, also announced further initiatives to limit close contact between public servants while at work.

In a Facebook post, Madam Halimah urged people to follow the MOH's recommendations to have, for example, people seated apart at private events such as weddings.

She also said that where possible, such gatherings should be postponed "until the risk has passed".

She had a special reminder for the young to be vigilant, even if they may not fall as seriously ill from the virus, as they could spread the infection to others who are more vulnerable.

"As individuals and collectively, we could do a lot more to keep ourselves, our friends, neighbours and families safe," she added.

PM Lee too called on people to work together to keep the virus at bay. While the Government is doing all it can to slow the spread, he said that "everyone needs to support and comply with the measures we have put in place".

The Government on Friday announced the suspension of events of more than 250 people, and introduced measures for people to keep a safe distance from one another at gatherings.


However, the advice seems to have fallen on deaf ears among some at places such as hawker centres and malls.

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung, who was at Kampung Admiralty Hawker Centre with other Sembawang GRC MPs for a community event, said that although half the stools at the hawker centre were taped to signal people should not sit on them, "half of the patrons sat on the taped stools".

"So I think it's time to really take all this seriously... We really have to take a lot more precautions."

Mr Chan said public sector agencies will move to introduce telecommuting where practicable, to reduce contact between public servants at the workplace and to ease the load on the public transport system.


Among other measures being put in place are split locations for working, staggered work hours, deferment of official trips and the cancellation of all social activities regardless of size.

"Let us work together to step up these safe distancing measures so that we can collectively win this fight for Singapore," he said.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 22, 2020, with the headline 'Leaders urge Singaporeans to heed social distancing rules'. Subscribe