Strong social compact, evolving strategy needed to hold large-scale events in S'pore safely

The opening ceremony of Singapore Maritime Week 2021, which was held at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre on April 19, 2021.
The opening ceremony of Singapore Maritime Week 2021, which was held at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre on April 19, 2021.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - Given the rapidly evolving Covid-19 situation, the Government will continually assess and adapt its strategies so as to organise large-scale meetings here safely.

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing described this dynamic approach when asked if key events lined up in Singapore this year are at risk of being postponed or cancelled because of the spike in cases both here and abroad.

The events include the Shangri-La Dialogue in June, World Economic Forum in August, and the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in November.

Singapore is experiencing its worst spate of Covid-19 community infections in close to a year. As at Tuesday (May 4), the number of new cases had risen to 64 cases in the past week from 11 the week before. To curb transmissions, tighter border and safe management measures were announced on Tuesday.

Education Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force tackling the pandemic, said the situation remains fluid and the authorities are keeping in touch with event organisers, who in due course will have to consider the options available based on the latest situation.

Mr Chan said that as the threat is evolving and the coronavirus has mutated, the management of Covid-19 cannot remain "static" and there is no fixed template that can be applied mechanically.

The authorities cannot be complacent and must always re-evaluate their approach, he said.

"We must never think that just because we have a primary plan, we can stop thinking about contingencies we need to plan for, what else may go wrong, and how we can put in place mitigating measures when things do not go according to plan.

"That makes us a much more robust system in managing (the pandemic)," said Mr Chan.

A press release by Bloomberg Media on Thursday cited Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as saying that health and safety remain Singapore's top priority.

"We will work closely with the Bloomberg team to create a safe and conducive environment to welcome all delegates here in November," said PM Lee.

Mr Chan added that tackling Covid-19 also requires a strong social compact, and not just the application of evidence-based scientific knowledge.

"If we do the simple things consistently, collectively, then we can be effective. That kind of social compact is something that gives people confidence when they look at Singapore and how we are handling the pandemic," he said.

"It's not that we won't have (Covid-19) cases from now till then. Chances are there will be cases which spike up once in a while, like what we have now. But the question is how we come together as a country to manage this (in a way) that will inspire confidence in others."