Singapore

Singapore must be prepared for more virus cases: Health Minister Gan

Global spread of disease increases risk of importation, says Health Minister

Singapore must be prepared for more Covid-19 cases as the global spread of the disease increases the risk of importation, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong.

"While we have seen the number of new cases in Singapore remain low over the last few days, we must remain aware that the global situation remains dynamic and we cannot afford to be complacent," he said.

Noting that there has been a surge in the number of cases worldwide, Mr Gan - who co-chairs a multi-ministry task force to tackle the coronavirus outbreak - said: "This means the risk of importation remains serious and imminent."

After emerging in China, the coronavirus has surfaced in more than 30 nations, with major outbreaks in South Korea, Italy and Iran.

In Italy, the worst hit in Europe, more than 200 people have been infected and seven have died, prompting some areas to shut schools and ban public events.

With the numbers rising quickly to hit almost 1,000 in South Korea, Singapore yesterday announced it would bar visitors from Daegu city and Cheongdo county - the two most affected areas in the country. Similar restrictions exist for travellers from China.

On whether there are plans to do the same for Italy, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the task force said: "We are very mindful of the risk from Italy as well. So it's on our radar screen."

He noted, though, that unlike China and South Korea, there are fewer flights from the affected regions in Italy to Singapore.

Even as Singapore continues to do everything possible to contain the spread of the virus, "it is a big unknown" as to how the situation will evolve in other countries, Mr Wong cautioned.

"There might well be a scenario where the virus becomes endemic in the human population, and we have to learn how to live with it, take the necessary precautions," he added.

As the situation evolves, Singapore will continue to monitor and reassess the approach and measures, both ministers said.

On Feb 7, Singapore raised the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (Dorscon) level from yellow to orange, amid indications the disease was spreading in the community.

Asked if going back to yellow was a possibility, Mr Gan said: "Whether we move the Dorscon level is not a checklist where we tick off everything. It is a judgement call; you take into account the factors, the situation, what other countries are doing.

"At the same time, we have enough flexibility to adjust many of our measures even in Dorscon orange."

The Ministry of Health yesterday confirmed one new Covid-19 case in Singapore, bringing the total number of infections here to 91.

coronavirus