Coronavirus: Precautionary measures updated as new findings emerge, says Lawrence Wong

The task force communicates daily and receives regular updates about developments on the pandemic.
The task force communicates daily and receives regular updates about developments on the pandemic.PHOTO: ST FILE

With more information emerging about the coronavirus, the Government has been implementing and updating precautionary measures as and when new medical findings are made, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong told The Sunday Times in an interview marking the 100-day mark of the outbreak here.

"We are dealing with a new virus. Scientists around the world are discovering new things about the virus and so we have to update our measures based on the latest evidence," he said.

Mr Wong, co-chair of the multi-ministry task force tackling the outbreak here, cited the advisory on masks as an example of a precautionary measure that changed over time.

At the start of the outbreak, he explained, the medical advice and the recommendation from the World Health Organisation was that masks should generally be worn by those who are sick.

"Later, there was evidence that people without symptoms or with very mild symptoms could be spreading the virus. Hence, we updated our guidance on masks and made it a requirement for everyone to wear masks when they go out," he said.

The Government had announced on Jan 30 that all 1.37 million households in Singapore would be given four surgical masks each, while reiterating that only people who were unwell should wear them.

On April 3, it was announced that the Government would no longer discourage people who are well from wearing masks, following evidence of people who were infected but showed no symptoms. All households also received reusable masks.

On April 14, Mr Wong announced that it was mandatory for everyone to wear a mask in public, except under certain conditions. Those who do not comply risk a $300 fine for the first offence.

He said the task force communicates daily via e-mail and phone calls and receives regular updates about developments on the pandemic.

He added that Singapore will be able to look back and learn from this experience when it is over.

"For now, let us stay focused on the mission. There are still many issues to tackle, not least the critical issue of how we can exit from the circuit breaker and resume activities safely, while keeping the virus under control," he said.

He acknowledged the efforts of Singaporeans who have observed the circuit breaker measures, which have brought the local transmission numbers down in recent days, and also saluted the sacrifices of those on the front line.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 03, 2020, with the headline 'Precautionary measures updated as new findings emerge: Lawrence Wong'. Print Edition | Subscribe