PM Lee: Singapore can't slacken in Covid-19 efforts

Singapore cannot afford to slacken in its effort to keep Covid-19 in check as the virus will rear its head in new and unimaginable ways, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

While the country has kept its number of Covid-19 deaths low at 31 and is in a stable position, it is "far from out of the woods", with a fresh superspreading cluster leading to tightened restrictions and gathering rules again, he added.

"Each time you think you have got the Covid-19 situation under control, and you know how to respond to it, it pops up in a new direction," he said.

"It can be a mutant, it can be a new avenue which you did not spot, but you cannot afford to slacken, and you must always think beyond what you imagine is likely to happen."

PM Lee was speaking on Wednesday at the US Chamber of Commerce's inaugural Global Forum on Economic Recovery.

In a virtual fireside chat with the US Chamber's executive vice-president Myron Brilliant, he said Singapore's previous experience with the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) in 2003 helped it handle the coronavirus pandemic.

"That primed our system to gear up for a next new disease and primed our population to understand what was at stake and what kind of collective responses we needed," he said.

The pandemic also reminded everyone of the importance of international cooperation, which has largely held up, added PM Lee.

"There was a scramble for PPE (personal protective equipment) at the beginning, there is a scramble for vaccine doses now, but internationally, supply chains have not broken down. You can still buy iPhones made in any number of countries, you can still buy cars, which require parts from many continents."

He noted that the world has not taken "giant strides towards autarky", meaning "total self-reliance". Nor can a small and open country such as Singapore afford to seal its borders off.

"Protectionism? Yes. Autarky? No. That is a qualified plus.

"Other bigger countries can (close their borders), to a very great extent. For Singapore, you need food, fuel, people moving in and out, even during Covid-19. You have to do it to the extent that you can, while keeping ourselves safe with all the precautions... Not without risk, but unavoidable."

PM Lee said that globally, it is not just India that is in a very difficult spot now, but also Latin America and even Africa, where many have not been vaccinated, though the number of reported cases are low.

"We are very anxious that what has happened to the rest of the world will not befall Africa too, which would have consequences not just on that continent."

The Straits Times

"Each time you think you have got the Covid-19 situation under control, and you know how to respond to it, it pops up in a new direction. It can be a mutant, it can be a new avenue which you did not spot, but you cannot afford to slacken, and you must always think beyond what you imagine is likely to happen."

- PM Lee Hsien Loong

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