Prepare for Covid-19 to stay long term: Gan Kim Yong, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Prepare for Covid-19 to stay long term: Gan Kim Yong

This article is more than 12 months old

Expect more new cases, says Health Minister, as Singapore constantly adjusts its response to changing situation

Singapore needs to prepare to live with Covid-19 for a long time, and brace itself for significantly more new cases, Parliament was told yesterday.

A prolonged outbreak could also delay projects like Changi Airport's Terminal 5.

Touching on how difficult it is becoming to keep the virus at bay, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said infections outside China are growing at "alarming rates".

"This is worrying as they pose a high risk of importation of cases into Singapore," he said. "Even among our closest neighbours, the situation is evolving. Therefore, it is likely this disease will stay with us for a long time."

Singapore will keep adjusting its response to the changing situation, he said.

As more countries face infections, it will become increasingly difficult to stop the virus at the borders "as we cannot ban visitors from every country and shut ourselves out from the world", he added.

Speaking at a workshop organised by the International Air Transport Association, Senior Minister of State for Health and Transport Lam Pin Min said the outbreak could become a full-blown pandemic, and that the current precautions are not sustainable.

In the case of a pandemic, travel restrictions might have to be replaced by measures like rigorous screening at airports so that life can still go on, said Dr Lam.

Singapore currently does not admit visitors who have been in China, South Korea, Iran and northern Italy within 14 days.

Mr Gan said there is a high risk of importing cases even though Singapore is doing swab testing at the borders on people who are ill.

But people may enter without showing symptoms and fall sick while here, he added.

"We do expect to see a significantly higher number of cases in time to come," he said.

"And with a higher number of cases in Singapore, the risk of community spread will also increase."

Every outbreak is different, he said, in reply to queries from Ms Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC) and Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) on preparing for future outbreaks.

Measures Singapore takes may need to be adjusted to factor in a long-term outbreak, as it will take some time for effective vaccines and treatments to become available.

What is critical is the ability "to mount a swift and effective response", including mobilising the resources of all relevant government agencies.

A prolonged outbreak may delay some major transport infrastructure projects such as Terminal 5 at Changi Airport and the expansion of the MRT network, said Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, as it may disrupt the supply of construction equipment and materials.

Mr Gan pointed out that it is important to be transparent and share information as soon as possible to preserve the trust between the people and the Government.