Singapore facing “serious situation” but no plans for a lockdown, says PM Lee in COVID-19 address

PM Lee addressed the nation on the COVID-19 outbreak this evening. Screengrab courtesy: Prime Minister's Office
PM Lee addressed the nation on the COVID-19 outbreak this evening. Screengrab courtesy: Prime Minister's Office





Singapore will not raise the DORSCON level to red nor will it implement a lockdown, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong earlier this evening, in his second address on the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. 

"We are not locking down our city like the Chinese, South Koreans or Italians have done. What we are doing now is to plan ahead for some of these more stringent measures, try them out, and prepare Singaporeans for when we actually need to implement them," PM Lee said in the address broadcast over his social media platforms.

Warning that the outbreak could continue for a year or even longer, the prime minister said that if Singaporeans kept up their guard and took precautions to protect themselves and their families, the country would be able to keep its economy going and people would be able to carry on with their daily lives. 

He added that he was grateful that Singaporeans were reacting calmly and responsibly. 

He did however warn that Singapore is facing a "serious situation", with a "possible spike" in new cases, more clusters and new waves of infection from other countries. 

"Each time we have been able to isolate them, do contact tracing, and quarantine the close contacts. So our numbers have not blown up. But neither have we been able to eradicate the virus, despite our best efforts," he said. 

Singapore has 187 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday, of which 96 cases have recovered and been discharged from hospital.

PM Lee added that while Singapore has already imposed some travel restrictions, it will "have to tighten up further temporarily, though we cannot completely shut ourselves from the world". 

Since the number of cases are large in number, Singapore will not be able to hospitalise and isolate every case as it currently does especially as 80 per cent of patients experience only mild symptoms, he added.

"So with larger numbers, the sensible thing will be to hospitalise only the more serious cases, and encourage those with mild symptoms to see their family GP and rest at home – isolate themselves. This way, we focus resources on the seriously ill, speed up our response time, and hopefully, minimise the number of fatalities," said the prime minister.

Singapore is also freeing up intensive care units and hospital beds and facilities, to create additional capacity to meet any surge. "But rest assured, any Singaporean who needs urgent medical care, whether for COVID-19 or other illnesses, will be taken care of," PM Lee reassured. 

He added that Singapore will implement temporary additional social distancing measures, such as suspending school, staggering work hours, or compulsory telecommuting if there is a spike in the number of cases.

PM Lee also said that the government is working on a second economic package to help companies with costs and cash-flow as they weather the COVID-19 storm. 

"We will help our workers keep their jobs, and retrain during their downtime, so that when things return to normal, our workers will be the first out of the gate, and immediately productive. And we will give those who are retrenched and unemployed, as well as their families, an extra helping hand to see through this difficult period," he said. 

The prime minister stated that Singapore’s measures to control and fight the outbreak has received international accolades

"What makes Singapore different from other countries is that we have confidence in each other, we feel that we are all in this together, and we do not leave anyone behind. This is SG United, we are SG United," he said. "In such a crisis, everyone has a part to play. I hope you will work with me and colleagues to keep our families safe, keep Singapore secure, and move forward together."