Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong praised Singapore’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic in Parliament on Wednesday but said it must learn from the mistakes that were made.
“Judging by the health outcomes, we have done well, so far,” PM Lee said in his address to the Parliament. He highlighted the fact that Singapore has one of the lowest fatality rates globally, just a handful of daily infections and less than 100 patients still in hospital.
However, he also said that the country’s response to the pandemic was “not without shortcomings” and that “with hindsight, we would certainly have done some things differently”.
“For example, I wish we had known earlier that people with COVID-19 were infectious even when they were asymptomatic,” PM Lee said. “Then when we brought Singaporeans back home from all over the world in March, we would have quarantined all of them earlier, instead of only those returning from certain countries, so that the virus did not spread to their family members, colleagues and friends.”
“And we would have tested all of them before releasing them from quarantine, whether or not they showed any symptoms, instead of assuming that no symptoms meant no infection,” he added.
Another thing PM Lee said the government would have done differently is to recommend that everyone wear face masks sooner than it did.
“Once the World Health Organization recognised that asymptomatic transmission was a major problem, we changed our policy, and distributed face masks to everyone,” he said.
PM Lee also said that the government could also have acted "more aggressively and sooner" on the migrant worker dormitories.
“Communal living in any form poses risks – on board ships, in army camps, student hostels, nursing homes,” he said. “We stepped up precautions. For a time, these seemed adequate. But then bigger clusters broke out in the dorms, which threatened to overwhelm us.”
However, the prime minister said that these things were all “wisdom after the fact” and that Singapore needs to “learn from these errors” so that it can do better next time.
PM Lee also said that the reason Singapore has dealt so well with the outbreak of the novel coronavirus is because the public service, political leadership, businesses and the public have worked together.
He added that the overall COVID-19 response was dependent on Singaporeans working together and trusting the government.
“Many Singaporeans’ lives have been severely affected, but they have borne these difficulties calmly and stoically,” PM Lee said. “Many volunteered to take part in the COVID-19 operations, sometimes on the frontline and also in community efforts to help others through these tough times.”