Social, economic costs weighed before circuit breaker set: Minister, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Social, economic costs weighed before circuit breaker set: Minister

This article is more than 12 months old

Lawrence Wong warns easing of some measures not a signal to 'take it easy'

Keeping everyone at home to stem the transmission of Covid-19 has substantial social and economic costs, and is likely to disproportionately impact lower-income and vulnerable groups, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong.

"They are also less likely to be able to telecommute for work. So staying home will clearly affect their incomes and livelihoods. Being isolated at home for long periods is also not good for their health and overall well-being," he noted.

That is why the Government considered very carefully before implementing the circuit breaker and later extending it for another month till June 1, he said in a ministerial statement in Parliament yesterday.

While it was a difficult decision to implement and extend the circuit breaker as businesses and workers were already hurting, he said the Government decided it needed to break the transmission chain and slow down the spread of the coronavirus.

From May 12, some gradual easing of the measures will be allowed, like allowing barbers and hairdressers to reopen.

But the key circuit breaker measures will largely remain till June 1, said the minister, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force handling Covid-19.

"I must strongly caution that the easing of some measures in the coming weeks cannot be taken as a signal that we can now take it easy and start to go out more," he said, reiterating that the fight against Covid-19 is far from over.

"The virus can flare up again anytime. We cannot afford to slacken.

"We must stay vigilant, maintain our discipline, continue to stay home and minimise our contact with others."


Singaporeans should expect more challenges in the fight against Covid-19, which may require further adjustments to the measures and precautions taken, the minister said.

The Government will have to adjust risk assessments and measures as it learns more about how the virus is transmitted.

Mr Wong acknowledged that it can be difficult to keep up with all the changes.

"We are dealing with a new virus, and scientists everywhere are still discovering more about the virus," he said, noting that the latest evidence and medical advice - and its impact on people - are considered before changes are made.

For instance, the Government updated its guidance on masks as it learnt more about the virus, eventually making it a requirement for everyone to wear masks when they go out.

It also calibrated measures and allowed people to go out to exercise amid the circuit breaker, as there is no local evidence of transmission among people exercising in the open, said Mr Wong.

He noted that people were also not required to wear masks when they exercised, as long as they observed safe distancing.

The measure is in line with what the Czech Republic, one of the first European countries to make mask wearing mandatory, has done.