Impact of Covid-19 to last at least a year: Vivian, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Impact of Covid-19 to last at least a year: Vivian

This article is more than 12 months old

Minister Vivian Balakrishnan calls for action on a global level to overcome crisis

Covid-19 and its economic fallout will last at least a year, which means governments must take sustainable and sensible action for the long term, said Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.

In an interview with CNBC Asia last Wednesday, he said unlike during the 2003 Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak, which was largely limited to East Asia, the numbers infected by Covid-19 have exploded across the world, from Europe to the United States to Iran.

"If this had been like Sars, confined to East Asia - China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore - and given the kind of social and medical procedures that we could take, there (would be) a chance for containment... Unfortunately, I think the genie is out of the bottle," he said.

Dr Balakrishnan pointed out that Covid-19 is a global phenomenon and its impact will last for quite some time.

Sars took around four months to get over, and its economic impact took around six months to wear out. "This time, it is going to be longer, and it is going to be all countries," he said.

While international observers have lauded the Singapore Government for its swift response to Covid-19, the minister would not be drawn into commenting on whether this would affect the timing of the general election, which has to be held by April 21 next year.

"You will have to ask the Prime Minister that," he said.

"But the election is not the most important thing right now. The most important thing is that we get over this. We get over this together, and we get over this together with our neighbouring countries, our region and at the global level.

"This is a time to focus on delivery, on getting things done. The politics will take care of itself."

The call to action extends to Asean members as well.

"I can tell you, without revealing details, that we are sharing information, we are sharing capacity, and we are coordinating our measures," he said.


Pointing out that 300,000 people cross between Malaysia and Singapore daily, and four of the world's 10 busiest air routes are in the Asean region, Dr Balakrishnan said it is "one hot zone" for Covid-19.

"We are in it together and we cannot resolve this unless the whole world, and in particular for us in our region, Asean, gets it right."

He also spoke about "test kit diplomacy", saying: "What we need to do as a world is to share best practices, to rapidly develop test kits, vaccines, antivirals.

"We need to share the fruits of applied research. We need to coordinate our measures."

Last Thursday, the Government contributed 50 packages of personal protective equipment to the Batam government at its request, to support Indonesia's efforts to combat Covid-19.