Coronavirus: President Halimah, PM Lee reaffirm Singapore's support for China's efforts to combat outbreak

A photo taken on Feb 17, 2020, shows a medical worker attending to a patient at the Wuhan Fang Cang makeshift hospital in China. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SINGAPORE - President Halimah Yaacob and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong have reaffirmed Singapore's support for China's efforts to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

In letters sent to China's President Xi Jinping on Monday (Feb 24), both Singapore leaders lauded efforts taken by China and offered their condolences for the lives lost to the virus.

In her letter, Madam Halimah commended the Chinese President's "swift, decisive and comprehensive measures to contain the Covid-19 outbreak and safeguard the health of your people", noting that they were beginning to yield "encouraging and positive outcomes".

"I am confident that under your able leadership, China will overcome Covid-19 with strength and fortitude," she wrote.

Similarly, PM Lee said: "We have seen how speedily China has mobilised itself to contain the spread, and implemented practical measures to help people affected, both in Wuhan and the rest of China..

"We applaud China's firm and decisive response, and are happy to see early indications that it is beginning to bring the outbreak under control."

Both President Halimah and PM Lee also stressed the importance of both countries working together to battle such crises, with Mr Lee adding that fighting the severe acute respiratory syndrome in 2003 taught both countries the importance of cooperation.

"Singapore responded to China's early request for personal protective equipment, medical supplies and diagnostic test kits," said PM Lee, adding that the Singapore government has also contributed to a humanitarian assistance fund for affected communities in China, that has so far raised over S$6 million.

He said that researchers from Singapore's National Research Foundation, universities and companies "are ready to collaborate with their Chinese counterparts to share expertise and discoveries, and work towards a vaccine and an effective treatment for the virus".

PM Lee also highlighted Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat's and China's Vice-Premier Han Zheng's agreement to discuss cooperation in the management of public health crises at the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC). He said Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan had shared some of Singapore's ideas with China's State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi when they met in Laos last week, and that officials from both countries can discuss it further.

The 15th edition of the JCBC was held in Chongqing last October, and Singapore is slated to host the next one.

"Singapore and China mark the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations this year. Our continued close cooperation in meeting common challenges testifies to our strong and steadfast friendship," added PM Lee.

President Halimah thanked the Chinese government, in particular the Hubei government, for facilitating Singapore's efforts to repatriate Singaporeans and their dependants from Hubei.

She added that Singapore was glad to assist with the repatriation of Chinese nationals in Singapore back to Wuhan, and lauded the " strong cooperation between our countries".

"I am confident that with your strong support, our two countries will continue to build on this firm foundation to further deepen and broaden the multifaceted cooperation between our two countries," she said, adding that she is looking forward to meeting Mr Xi in Beijing during her state visit to China this year.

On the assistance package Singapore sent, she said: "I hope that our modest contributions have brought some comfort and relief to those affected by the virus."

PM Lee also outlined Singapore's own efforts to deal with the outbreak, saying it has introduced restrictions and stepped up detection at its borders, along with implementing strict quarantine procedures.

"And we have strengthened our healthcare system, to treat and care for those who have contracted the virus. Many Covid-19 patients, including a significant number of Chinese citizens, have recovered well in our hospitals and been discharged," he wrote.

He also noted that Covid-19 may take longer to bring under control than Sars, and is more likely to become endemic in human populations.

"Even as countries take strong measures to contain the disease in the early phases, we should begin exploring how over the longer term we can best manage the health effects of the virus on our people, while progressively restoring economic activities and international trade and travel," wrote PM Lee.

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