(Singapore, Mar 11, 2020) Singapore will have to double down on its COVID-19 control measures by looking at the whole range of social distancing measures, Singapore’s Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong has said over the weekend.

As the co-chair of the Multi-Ministry Taskforce on COVID-19, Wong addressed a Press Conference that as the virus spreads to countries everywhere, country-specific border control measures will become less relevant and effective because the island country is unable to shut itself from the world.

“We have to now shift our approach,” he said.

The Minister said that Singapore will still maintain some basic surveillance at the borders, including using swab tests for travelers who come in, who are febrile, or who have respiratory symptoms. Also, it has started social distancing measures, including isolating patients, putting close contacts on quarantine, issuing Stay-Home Notices.

Besides, the government will look at a fuller range of social distancing measures, including for public events, community activities, school closures, workplace social distancing including things like staggered hours, telecommuting as well as religious services too.

“We are very mindful that these measures can be very disruptive to the lives of
Singaporeans,” said Wong, noting that if the government were to do all of them at one time, it would literally have to shut down our city and everything will grind to a halt.

“If we were to start some of them too early, people might become fatigued, and then you cannot sustain the measures, and then it will not be effective either. So getting the measures right, and applying them at the right time, is critical,” he added.

He said that in that context, it is useful to think of this broad sweep of social distancing measures as something the government can apply from time to time, like circuit breakers throughout the entire epidemic cycle.

“By doing so, we put in brakes to try and stop, or slow down the transmission chain, and flatten the epidemic curve,” he said.

Some of these measures will be implemented temporarily or over a discrete period, while others will be on a permanent basis – they ought to be part of people’s habits and a new way of life.

Earlier on, in a bid to better protect the senior locals, who are more vulnerable to COVID-19, the government has suspended all local social activities for seniors organized by government agencies for 14 days from yesterday on.

The precautions come amid a growing number of infections linked to a dinner at Safra Jurong – now Singapore’s largest coronavirus cluster with 39 cases – mostly attended senior citizens.

Besides, the island country has also adopted better hygiene standards at the personal and public levels.

“We will be looking at what is the appropriate time and juncture to introduce some of these additional measures,” the Minister said.