SINGAPORE: Singapore’s economy will not restart all at once, but will have to open up “step by step” even after “circuit breaker” measures are relaxed, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday (Apr 30) in his May Day message.
Three weeks into a circuit breaker period that has been extended to Jun 1, new cases of COVID-19 in the community have shown signs of falling.
“We are now down to about 10 to 15 new community cases daily,” said Mr Lee.
On Thursday, Singapore reported 528 new infections, with the majority being migrant workers living in dormitories. Six new cases are Singaporeans or permanent residents.
READ: Don’t 'drop workers': Companies and workers should take the long view, says PM Lee in May Day message
Mr Lee said that Singapore will progressively restart its economy after it brings down the number of new COVID-19 cases, but this will “not be straightforward”.
“We need to step up COVID-19 testing and speed up contact-tracing. And we must proceed cautiously, with safeguards, so infections do not flare up again,” he said.
“Some industries will open up earlier than others and recover sooner,” he said. These include sectors critical to keeping the domestic economy going and those that keep Singapore connected to the world and to global supply chains.
“Other sectors will have to wait, especially those which attract crowds or involve close contact with other people, such as entertainment outlets and large-scale sporting events,” said Mr Lee. “We must keep all these different industries intact, ready to resume business when conditions allow.”
HELPING SIA THROUGH COVID-19 CRISIS
He cautioned that the tourism and aviation industries will take much longer to recover, because international travel will remain restricted as long as COVID-19 is still a problem around the world.
READ: Singapore’s aviation and tourism recovery will be very slow after COVID-19 but long-term outlook remains bright
But the Government will “spare no effort” to help national carrier Singapore Airlines (SIA) see through this crisis.
“SIA has always flown Singapore’s flag high all over the world, and made us proud. We will spare no effort to enable it to do so again,” he said.
The airline, facing its biggest crisis ever, has cut passenger capacity by 96 per cent, asked pilots to take no-pay leave and cut the pay of its executives. It has also lent support in the fight against COVID-19, helping to fly in essential supplies and mounting evacuation flights to bring Singaporeans home. Grounded cabin crew are now helping out in hospitals and as safe distancing ambassadors in trains, markets and malls.
“They are all doing their part to help the company survive,” said Mr Lee.
READ: COVID-19: Safe distancing on aircraft could be 'new normal', driving up ticket prices, say analysts
The aviation sector is not the only industry in trouble as many workers see pay cuts and businesses suffer losses during the pandemic.
“This is unavoidable, but I encourage both employers and workers to take a longer-term view,” Mr Lee said. “Workers must accept wage sacrifices to keep businesses going, and employers must make every effort to keep their workers.”
The Prime Minister also thanked all workers, including migrant workers, saying that he is especially grateful to those working in essential services, including healthcare workers, teachers, frontline public service officers, cleaners and those in security services, transport and delivery riders.
“All of you have made sacrifices and exceeded the call of duty, your families too have stood by your side, supporting you,” he said. “To all of you, I want to say a big thank you.”