Singapore PM announces 'decisive move' to fight COVID-19; closes most workplaces

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Singapore PM announces 'decisive move' to fight COVID-19; closes most workplaces

Friday, 03 April 2020 | PTI | Singapore

Singapore PM announces 'decisive move' to fight COVID-19; closes most workplaces

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Friday announced the closure of most workplaces and moving to home-based learning for schoolchildren as part of his "decisive move" to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Lee, during a live televised speech to 5.6 million Singaporeans, said that he was worried that unless "we take further steps, things will gradually get worse or another big cluster may push things over the edge".

"We have decided that instead of tightening incrementally over the next few weeks, we should make a decisive move now to pre-empt escalating infections," he said.

Singapore reported 65 new cases on Friday, taking the total number of cases to 1,114. So far, five persons have died of coronavirus with three of them in a week.

Singapore will apply these "circuit breakers" for one month in first instance, Lee said.

Restrictions on movements and gatherings of people will be tightened amid the spread of COVID-19 in Singapore.

"We will therefore impose significantly stricter measures. This is like a circuit breaker," the prime minister said.

Most workplaces, with the exception of essential services and key economic sectors, will be closed.

Food establishments, markets and supermarkets, clinics, hospitals, utilities, transport and key banking services will remain open.

"We also should not disrupt economic sectors that are strategic or form part of a global supply chain. People working in these industries can continue to go to work, with safe-distancing measures in place. But most other work premises must close," Lee said, adding that the move will ensure that most of Singapore's workforce stays at home and limits their physical interaction to as few people as possible.

In addition, Singapore will also move to full home-based learning in schools and institutes of higher learning (IHLs) from next Wednesday.

All pre-school and student care centres will also be closed but will provide limited services for children of parents who have to continue working and are unable to make alternative care arrangements.

Singaporeans should stay home as much as possible, avoid socialising with others outside of their households and only go out to do essential things, he said.

Gatherings should be confined to a household and Singaporeans should avoid visiting extended family members who do not live with them, especially if they are elderly or vulnerable, the prime minister added.

"The spirit of these measures is to get all of us to minimise physical contact. If we don't go out, if we avoid contact with others, then the virus won't be able to spread. It is as simple as that.

"We now think there are some cases out there in the community going undetected, though probably still not that many. We also now have evidence that an infected person can show no symptoms and yet still pass on the virus to others," he said.

Other measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 have been in effect which include the tightening of border restrictions to not allow short-term visitors to enter or transit through the country, limiting of gatherings outside school and work to a maximum of 10 people as well as the closure of all entertainment venues such as night clubs, discos, karaoke outlets, cinemas and theatres.

All religious services and congregations have also been suspended.

Stressing that the next few weeks will be "pivotal", Lee said the number of COVID-19 cases will likely to continue to increase over the next few days.

"But if we keep our efforts up, within a few weeks we should be able to bring the numbers down and get into a more sustainable position.

"It will be a long fight. But if any country can see this through, it is Singapore. We have the resources. We have the determination. We are united. By helping one another through this, we will prevail and emerge stronger," Lee assured.

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