Wuhan virus

PM Lee confident China and other nations will work together to beat virus

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaking at the annual Teck Ghee Chinese New Year Celebration Dinner on Feb 1, 2020. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

China is doing all it can to contain the spread of the coronavirus, and Singapore's efforts will complement this, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

"We know that China is doing all it can to contain the spread of the virus. Singapore has been countering the novel coronavirus by isolating suspected cases and conducting contact tracing, once the cases are confirmed," he said in Mandarin.

"I have every confidence that we can overcome the challenge before us."

Speaking at the Chinese New Year dinner at his Teck Ghee constituency yesterday, PM Lee said that while Singapore was far better prepared to handle the threat than during Sars in 2003, China's response had also been more muscular.

"They have imposed their own travel restrictions on their end, including cancelling all outbound tour groups and bringing back Hubei residents from overseas," he said.

He pointed out that this was a much stronger response from China than when Sars broke out.

Wuhan, the provincial capital of Hubei in central China, has been identified as the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak.

"We have confidence that China and other countries will work together to win this battle," said PM Lee.

He also addressed the recent bubbling of anti-China or anti-Chinese sentiment in many countries, and called it unhelpful to the cause of fighting the outbreak.

He pointed out that a tour group from Singapore, comprising Singapore Chinese, had been turned away from a tourist attraction in Australia after they were mistaken as being from China, because of anti-Chinese sentiment.

"That is foolish and illogical," PM Lee said in Mandarin."Even though the virus started in Wuhan, it doesn't respect nationality or race. It does not check your passport before it goes into your body. Anybody can be infected," he said. "(The outbreak) is a problem that all countries must work together to solve."

"If... other countries failed to prevent the virus from spreading, and you have a big outbreak in another country, for example, somewhere in South-east Asia, then we will have a big problem in Singapore because we have so many travellers coming in and out of Singapore every day (from all over the world)," he said.

"If all that comes to a stop, I think the impact on us and our economy, on our livelihoods, will be quite severe, so we will work with other countries to fight the virus, to understand the disease, to prevent its spread," he added.

Singapore's enhanced travel measures that took effect from yesterday are pre-emptive and meant "purely to protect our public health", he added.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 02, 2020, with the headline PM Lee confident China and other nations will work together to beat virus. Subscribe