Singapore tracking Omicron Covid-19 variant closely, may be forced to take steps back: PM Lee
But Mr Lee said he was confident the country will be able to live with the virus, and held up how its people have made a lot of progress in dealing with the disease over the past two years.
In his first public comments about Omicron, Mr Lee, who was speaking at the People's Action Party (PAP) convention on Sunday, said that Singapore must be mentally prepared for "more bumps along the road" as it deals with an evolving virus.
"We are tracking this very closely. We are not sure yet, but we may well be forced to take a few steps back, before we can take more steps forward," he said.
"Despite all this, I am confident that eventually we will find our way to living with the virus, and safely resume all the things we love to do."
"We are making all this effort because we want to get there safely, suffering as few casualties along the way as possible," he added.
Mr Lee also acknowledged that the fight against Covid-19 has been tough on Singapore and its people. He said: "It has been a long and winding journey. The virus has surprised us over and over again. We have repeatedly had to adapt our response, and then press on."
Omicron was first identified in Gauteng, a province of South Africa, and the WHO was alerted on Wednesday. It was declared a variant of concern because of the large number of mutations detected in its spike protein, which may cause an increased risk of reinfection, among other negative effects. The spike protein is what the coronavirus uses to begin infecting human cells.
Mr Lee on Sunday thanked healthcare and frontline workers, as well as PAP party activists, for working to keep Singapore safe.
He noted how some activists reached out to help residents in need by physically taking care of them, distributing support packs to people recovering at home alone, or attending to the mental well-being of others.
"These last two years have tested not just our healthcare response, but also our social bonds and our political will," he said.
"I am grateful that in a crunch, Singaporeans have stayed united, worked closely with the government, and come together to support one another."