No plans to raise crisis response level to red, says Gan

(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.
(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

There are currently no plans to escalate the national disaster alert response level in relation to the coronavirus outbreak, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said yesterday.

The Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (Dorscon) level was raised from "yellow" to "orange" on Feb 7 amid indications that the disease, now 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 news conference that rumours going around that the Dorscon level will be raised 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 on dealing with our patients and support them."

Mr Gan said 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 has said the Dorscon categories are not cast in stone, but are general guidelines for action.

In the colour coding system, "green" means the disease is mild or it is severe but does not spread easily. "Yellow" refers either to a disease that is spreading but is a mild infection or being contained, or a severe infection that spreads easily but is occurring outside Singapore.

"Orange" means the disease is severe with transmission, but is generally contained, and has moderate to high public health impact. "Red" signifies a severe disease that is spreading widely.

Yesterday, Mr Gan said 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 those should we be) 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 is not an easy thing to list out 'these are the conditions' and if you tick all the boxes, it will be downgraded," he said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2020, with the headline 'No plans to raise crisis response level to red, says Gan'. Print Edition | Subscribe