SINGAPORE: The ongoing COVID-19 situation will have a significant impact on Singapore's economy for the next couple of quarters, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Friday (Feb 14).
The current outbreak is "very intense", he said.
He noted the economies of the region are much more interlinked now than when Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) hit 17 years ago, noting the much bigger role played by China in the region now.
"I can't say whether we will have a recession or not," said Mr Lee.
"It's possible, but definitely our economy will take a hit."
The Prime Minister noted that in a message to the country last week, he had said Singapore may eventually have to change its approach to tackling the virus should the number of confirmed cases continue to grow.
"I don't think we've reached that point yet," he said. "But it is an evolving situation. Every day brings new developments."
While numbers are high, recent cases have mostly been traceable, he noted.
He added life here has to continue, even as the country has to make "sensible judgements" on the best course of action in tackling the virus.
On whether Singapore must accept temperature screenings and other measures as the new normal, Mr Lee said how long such measures are required depends on how the outbreak develops in Singapore, the region and the rest of the world.
While Singapore was declared SARS-free in less than four months, the COVID-19 "may not be so fast", he said.
"It will eventually pass, and we will be back to normal, but I cannot say for sure how long it will take."
On the joint working committee between Malaysia and Singapore, Mr Lee said while the two are separate countries, they are "one area" from a public health perspective, noting the high traffic travelling back and forth between the two countries each day.
As such, Malaysia and Singapore had to work through the problem together, he said.
Vietnam, as the current ASEAN chair, will also coordinate the group's response to the virus, he noted.
He noted a similar regional approach was taken during the SARS crisis.
"For us in Singapore, if the region has a problem it's going to be very, very difficult for Singapore to isolate ourselves and to keep the problem outside of our boundaries."
Mr Lee was speaking to the media on the sidelines of a visit to Changi Airport Terminal 3 on Friday.
Changi Airport is on the frontlines of the current coronavirus situation, said Mr Lee, noting the air travel industry has been badly hit, with fewer flights now.
Accompanied by Senior Minister of State for Transport and Health Lam Pin Min, he met with various members of the airport's staff, including baggage handlers, check-in staff and immigration officers.