Govt taking steps to avoid a second lockdown: PM

He urges S'poreans not to let down their guard as another lockdown will be a major setback

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Singapore has to tighten measures against Covid-19 promptly where necessary to clamp down on the spread of new clusters, and avoid going into a second circuit breaker, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

Speaking at the May Day Rally, he said he hoped Singaporeans would work together with the Government against the virus, and not let down their guard.

With new strains of the virus emerging, he noted, things in Singapore can deteriorate rapidly.

"We are watching our own situation, and it can easily, quickly, turn bad again," he said. "If we have to do another lockdown like last year's circuit breaker, it would be a major setback for our people and for our economic recovery. Let's not make it happen."

PM Lee's remarks come amid a spike in cases in the community in the past week.

There were 37 cases of community transmission here in the past week, from 11 cases in the week before. Many of them came from the first Covid-19 hospital cluster.

The Tan Tock Seng Hospital cluster, discovered after a nurse tested positive on Tuesday, has grown to 16 cases, one of whom died yesterday. The number of unlinked cases has also gone up from four the week before to 10 in the past week.

These developments prompted the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19 to announce tighter restrictions on gatherings, malls and travel on Friday.

"The Government is doing everything we can to prevent these clusters from spreading in the community," said PM Lee yesterday.

"And we will have to be agile and decisive in our response, to tighten measures promptly, when it's necessary, to clamp down on the spread and to avoid going into a second circuit breaker. I hope Singaporeans will work with us and not let down our guard."

He added: "It is not time to relax yet. This is a marathon. Let's keep jogging. Let's keep ourselves safe.

"Don't make the mistake which other countries have done, celebrate too early, relax too fast, let your guard down, cause another wave to come - very often worse than the first - and more nasty drastic measures become necessary."

In his speech, PM Lee noted that with the global recession less protracted than feared, Singapore's economy could achieve growth of 6 per cent or better this year.

But this would only bring it back to where it was before the pandemic, and sectors like aviation, tourism and construction are still not out of the woods, he said.

The recent ban on travellers from India, amid record daily infections surpassing 300,000 there, has worsened the situation for the construction sector, he added.

The Government is therefore working on emergency legislation to help "share the burden more fairly between the different parties - the contractors, the developers and the buyers", he said. It hopes to introduce the laws when Parliament next sits, on May 10.

PM Lee stressed the importance of ensuring the well-being, health and safety of construction workers. Protecting vulnerable groups in society is a key priority, he added, saying he planned to speak on moves to support lower-income workers at the National Day Rally in August.

He said the Government has provided relief to help companies tide over the crisis, drawing on more than $50 billion from past reserves to fund initiatives like the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS).

The wage subsidies scheme, extended until September for the hardest-hit sectors, has been applauded by many union leaders who had asked him if it could be extended further, he added.

"I said, we would think about this carefully. But please remember: JSS is artificial life support. It keeps us breathing for a while, but it doesn't cure us, and it doesn't last forever," said PM Lee.

"We must find a way to fully recover, to get back on our feet, to build new muscles to move Singapore forward again."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 02, 2021, with the headline 'Govt taking steps to avoid a second lockdown: PM'. Subscribe