WHO's pandemic declaration will have little impact on S'pore: Experts
Experts say Singaporeans unlikely to be affected by WHO's declaration
The World Health Organisation's (WHO) declaration of the Covid-19 crisis as a global pandemic will have little impact on Singapore and the daily lives of Singaporeans, experts told The New Paper.
At a press briefing on Wednesday, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it has assessed the outbreak and characterised the current Covid-19 situation as a pandemic because of the "alarming levels of spread and severity of spread, and the alarming levels of inaction."
A pandemic is a disease that is spreading in multiple countries around the world at the same time. Most recently, the WHO declared the H1N1 swine flu in 2009 a pandemic. Previous pandemics include the Spanish flu in 1918, the deadliest in history, which killed at least 40 million people.
Chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health, Dr Chia Shi-Lu, told TNP that the declaration of Covid-19 as a pandemic was a call to arms.
He said the declaration serves to exert pressure on some of the other countries to get them to take the situation more seriously, to persuade them to step up measures and to mobilise aid.
Dr Chia said that Singapore has already been operating on the basis of a pandemic since the cases in Italy and Iran were known.
He added that while Singapore is prepared to roll out further social distancing measures should the need arise, the declaration of a pandemic is unlikely to have much impact within the country, as it reflects the international situation rather than what is happening in Singapore.
While there might be an impact on border controls and markets around the world, including in Singapore, Dr Chia said that the daily lives of Singaporeans are unlikely to be affected.
Infectious diseases expert Dr Leong Hoe Nam agreed.
"Nothing changes for Singapore. Certainly, don't panic with the word pandemic. Our same practices remain - sick (in any way, not just fever or cough or feeling unwell), don't go in to work."
Dr Leong said that to prepare for the global situation, the medical industry should prepare itself for more and more cases of Covid-19 and maybe put in place the requirement to cancel non-urgent operations .
This is to prevent a situation like in Italy where there were not enough spaces in hospitals to accommodate the sick.
MORE IMPORTED CASES
Dr Leong also said that the authorities are aware and prepared for more imported cases.
In a speech yesterday addressing the Covid-19 situation, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also spoke about the WHO's decision to call it a pandemic.
He said: "(This) means that WHO assesses that many countries will see full-blown outbreaks, with sustained community transmission, like what has happened in South Korea and Italy. And unlike Sars, this outbreak will continue for some time - a year, and maybe longer."
PM Lee stressed that the situation in Singapore remains under control: "We are not going to Dorscon Red. We are not locking down our city like the Chinese, South Koreans or Italians have done."