S'pore easing Covid-19 measures step by step to avoid U-turns, human cost

Singapore has had to change course along its journey in tackling Covid-19 and is trying to persuade its people that it is necessary to accept a few thousand virus cases a day, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Wednesday.

While it will try its best, there will be casualties, mainly old people who will not make it. "It is just the way life is, and it is the way influenza and pneumonia and other diseases carry off old folk by the thousands every year. We accept that, and we have to manage this going forward without letting it go out of control," he added.

PM Lee was speaking to Bloomberg editor-in-chief John Micklethwait at a gala dinner at The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore on day one of the Bloomberg New Economy Forum.

PM Lee noted that Singapore was trying to reach an end point without paying the high price many other societies have, when populations in these places were infected before they got vaccinated. This is also why Singapore is easing up on restrictions "step by step", even as it moves to living with the virus, "without having had to make unsettling U-turns".

Asked if the 61,000 people who are 60 and above who are not yet vaccinated - and thus more vulnerable to the virus - are preventing Singapore from opening up further, PM Lee pointed out that they have more than 61,000 relatives and friends and dear ones.

"If you just write them off, I do not think you can make those utilitarian calculations. It is a human cost. Just look at what has happened in Britain or in Italy or in America," he said.

In changing course, easing restrictions and reopening borders, PM Lee noted that trust is critical.

"It is not my logic which persuades people, but they watch you, they listen to you. They either have confidence in you and faith in you or they decide, well he sounds good, but I am not following him."

Turning to the issue of political succession, Mr Micklethwait said PM Lee has put two of his potential successors on the Covid-19 task force to see how they do, referring to ministers Lawrence Wong and Ong Ye Kung.

PM Lee said his approach is not to write off any participants. "Each makes a contribution. I put them there not as a beauty contest, but because I think they can make a contribution, and it is a very important job which needs to be done. If I do not put the best people available on the Covid-19 team, what am I doing with them?"

The Straits Times


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