Coronavirus: PM Lee makes special appeal to older Singaporeans to stay home

Older people are more vulnerable to virus, he says, stressing need for all to play their part


Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday made a special appeal to older Singaporeans to stay home, even as he stressed that everyone needed to play a part in keeping the Covid-19 outbreak contained.

PM Lee used part of an online video address on the coronavirus situation to speak directly to a group considered most vulnerable to the virus.

"I am one of you, so I know how you feel. When we are cooped up at home, we get restless and frustrated," said PM Lee, 68. "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."

As he had in previous addresses on the outbreak, PM Lee spoke plainly about the risks: "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."

With the death of an 86-year-old woman announced yesterday, seven people have died in Singapore due to the coronavirus, ranging in age from 64 to 88.

PM Lee added: "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."

He also reiterated that parents should not drop off children at their grandparents daily. The Health Ministry said yesterday that it is making exceptions in some circumstances, including when both parents are essential workers that cannot work from home.

The Prime Minister's online address came on the fourth day of a month-long period of tightened measures in Singapore and as countries across the region took further steps to contain the pandemic.

Yesterday, Malaysia extended its movement curbs by two weeks for a second time, stretching restrictions that began on March 18 to April 28. Meanwhile, Jakarta deployed police, soldiers and public order officers to enforce the capital's social distancing measures.

Adherence to Singapore's measures - called a circuit breaker - has been patchy, with the authorities issuing 3,100 warnings and 40 fines to date to members of the public. The measures include barring social gatherings and stopping non-essential businesses from operating at workplaces.

There were another 198 new cases announced yesterday, bringing the total past 2,000 to 2,108.

While PM Lee paid special attention to the elderly, he also stressed that all Singaporeans needed to "comply not just with the letter of the rules, but their spirit".

"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," he said. "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."

PM Lee added that the measures will take time to work, noting that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand told him that the number of cases started to come down only on the 11th day of a stringent lockdown there.

He said: "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."

Yesterday, dormitories continued to be an area of concern, with 79 of the 198 new cases linked to foreign worker dormitories.

PM Lee said the Government is paying close attention to the welfare of foreign workers, laying out the different measures that have been announced to help protect the group. "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 will provide them with the medical care and treatment that they need."

The Prime Minister also thanked the foreign workers and made a pledge to their families: "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."

Read the full text of PM Lee's message: TOP OF THE NEWS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 11, 2020, with the headline Coronavirus: PM Lee makes special appeal to older Singaporeans to stay home. Subscribe