S'pore on knife-edge, Covid-19 community cases can go either way over next few weeks: Lawrence Wong

There are currently more than 10 active coronavirus clusters in Singapore. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Singapore is now on a knife-edge, and the country's community case numbers can go either way over the next few weeks, said Education Minister Lawrence Wong on Tuesday (May 11).

"We have a chance of getting things under control by the end of the month," he said in a ministerial statement to update Parliament on the Republic's Covid-19 situation.

"But as we know from experience, it only takes one lapse or one irresponsible action for an infection to happen; and that infection may end up being a super-spreader event in the community."

There are currently more than 10 active coronavirus clusters here, the largest of which is at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, with 43 cases. Singapore has tightened its rules on social gatherings since last Saturday to stop the spread of Covid-19 in the community.

Mr Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force tackling the pandemic along with Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, noted that several public holidays are coming up.

Muslims here will celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri on Thursday, while Buddhists here will observe Vesak Day on May 26.

He acknowledged that the safety measures, which include tighter restrictions on social gatherings and household visits, will pose "considerable inconvenience" to Singaporeans.

"I thank everyone for taking the latest measures in your stride and seek your cooperation to abide by the rules - not just with the letter of the law, but also the spirit of it."

Similarly, Mr Gan thanked Singaporeans for their understanding, and urged them to continue to follow safe distancing measures to prevent further spread of Covid-19.

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He pointed out how the country has hit a bump in its path to recovery, and echoed Mr Wong's comments about how the coming few days and weeks are critical as Singapore seeks to uncover and break all chains of transmission.

"This came at an unfortunate time, as I know Singaporeans are looking forward to the upcoming Hari Raya and Vesak Day celebrations," said Mr Gan.

"The recent community cases show that there remain risks of a Covid-19 outbreak locally, and we need to remain vigilant to avoid an uncontrolled resurgence of community cases."

Responding to Ms Ng Ling Ling (Ang Mo Kio GRC) on how the outbreak will affect Singapore's plans to reopen its economy, Mr Wong said there is a chance to get those plans back on track.

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Cautioning against complacency, he noted that other places such as China, Australia and Taiwan have all had to deal with additional cases that seep through their tight safety measures.

"Leaks will happen. Even in our community, it's not likely that we have ever, throughout this whole period, been able to eradicate the virus. There's always been a low level of circulation," said Mr Wong.

"So, even if we can get today's outbreak under control and we start resuming more activities, there is no place for complacency. We must remain alert vigilant and uphold all the necessary safe management measures."

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