SINGAPORE: The fight against the COVID-19, which has infected almost 5 million people across the world, is one that requires international unity and cooperation, said Minister of Health Gan Kim Yong on Monday (May 18).
During a virtual meeting of the World Health Organization's (WHO) decision-making body, the World Health Assembly, Mr Gan called for global solidarity while highlighting the importance of lifting Singapore's COVID-19 "circuit breaker" measures cautiously.
Several countries have taken their first steps to easing restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus, but the WHO has warned that reopening too quickly without a vaccine could trigger a second wave of infections.
"I hope we can learn from each other and cooperate with one another as we fight the pandemic," said Mr Gan.
"This is a challenge that no single country can succeed on its own."
This is the first time the annual World Health Assembly has been held virtually. It took on an abridged agenda, with countries calling for a joint response to the COVID-19 pandemic and for any vaccine to be a "global public good".
Tabled by the European Union, the resolution also calls for an "impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation" of the international response to the coronavirus crisis.
At the meeing, Mr Gan shared that Singapore’s circuit breaker measures have delivered promising results, with fewer new cases in the community.
On Monday, Singapore reported 305 new COVID-19 cases, of which two were from within the local community. The numbers were lower on Monday partly due to fewer tests being processed at a laboratory that was reviewing its processes following an earlier apparatus calibration issue.
To date, Singapore has reported 28,343 COVID-19 cases, the majority of which are foreign workers residing in dormitories.
Twenty-two people have died from complications due to COVID-19, giving Singapore a fatality rate of about 0.08 per cent. This is "one of the lowest in the world", Mr Gan told the assembly.
The coronavirus has killed more than 310,000 people globally.
With two weeks left before Singapore's circuit breaker measures are expected to be lifted on Jun 1, the number of new cases in the community has decreased to an average of three per day in the last week, from seven per day in the week before.
This is the smallest average number of community cases since mid-March, Mr Gan told the assembly.
Mr Gan said that Singapore is also "proactively" managing the cases at the foreign worker dormitories, and that the situation "has also stabilised".
"Each member state faces different challenges and adopts a different strategy to fight the pandemic, but all with the same goal of keeping their people safe," said Mr Gan.
"As COVID-19 will be with us for some time, perhaps until an effective vaccine is available, we must adjust the way we work and live as we move forward," he added.
READ: Number of COVID-19 community cases 'likely' to go up as circuit breaker measures are eased: Gan Kim Yong
Mr Gan told the assembly that Singapore, like many countries, is also planning to roll back some of the stringent measures it had introduced earlier to stem the outbreak.
"We need to preserve people’s livelihoods while at the same time, continue to protect their lives and wellbeing. Therefore, we must adopt a cautious approach as we gradually open up and progressively rolled back the measures," he said.
He also added that the COVID-19 Response resolution sends a strong signal to the world that global solidarity is needed to win this war against the virus. Singapore is a co-sponsor of the resolution.
"Now is the time for unity and cooperation. Singapore greatly appreciates the leadership and expertise of the WHO under Dr Tedros and reaffirms our solidarity with the WHO, fellow member states, and the global community in this fight against COVID-19, and in paving the way forward as we begin to plan for recovery from the pandemic," he said, referring to WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.