Singapore

Singapore at critical stage of infection curve: Lawrence Wong

Singapore is at a "very critical time" on the Covid-19 infection curve, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong.

While there are now fewer cases of Singaporeans overseas bringing home the virus, the increasing number of local and unlinked cases is concerning, he told The Straits Times.

The Government has introduced a slew of new safe distancing measures, but it will take about two weeks to determine if they work, he said.

"The very stringent set of safe distancing measures came into effect only last Friday. That's still too early... all that we are seeing today is, in fact, the result of things that have already happened a week, two weeks ago," Mr Wong said.

Stricter safe distancing rules aim to keep people at least one metre apart in public places and reduce the total number of people who can gather at any one time to no more than 10.

The Ministry of Health reported 74 new cases yesterday, out of which 54 were local transmissions.

The total number of infected people here is now 1,000.

The number of new imported cases has started to fall as most overseas Singaporeans with plans to return home have likely done so.

For instance, the number of returnees from the United States and Britain have fallen from a high of about 1,200 a day a week ago, to fewer than 200 now.

The Government has also been able to manage and control the number of imported cases, through border restrictions and by isolating and keeping returning Singaporeans in hotels as they serve out their 14-day stay-home notice.

Proper infection control measures in these hotels have to be put in place, Mr Wong said. Staff need to be trained to know what to do, or these facilities would risk becoming clusters themselves, he cautioned.

"It's not something that just appears out of nowhere, that you can magically produce rooms for thousands of people a day. But (there is) a lot of work behind the scenes to get these facilities ready," he said.

"We are working with more hotel operators to see how we can... activate more facilities, because ideally, I would like to be able to accommodate returnees from anywhere in the world," Mr Wong added.

Should the epicentre of the virus, which has moved from China to Europe and now to the US, shift to a new country or region, the Republic could see another wave of returning Singaporeans, Mr Wong cautioned.

- CLARA CHONG

coronavirus