SINGAPORE: The Wuhan coronavirus outbreak will impact Singapore’s economy, with tourism-related sectors being of “immediate concern,” said Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing on Monday (Jan 27).
These include hospitality-related companies such as hotels and travel agents, and sectors such as F&B, retail and transport, he said.
“From MTI's (Ministry of Trade and Industry‘s) perspective, we certainly expect there to be an impact on our economy, business and consumer confidence this year, especially as the situation is expected to persist for some time,” said Mr Chan at a multi-agency press conference.
But as with previous episodes such as the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak in 2003, there will be support for businesses, he said. These could include reducing business costs, alleviating their cash flow as well as helping them to retain workers, said Mr Chan.
“I would like to assure Singaporeans that the Government has the means and we stand ready to work with our TACs (trade associations and chambers), Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and our labour movement, NTUC, to make sure that we have the support measures for enterprises and workers,” he stated.
The Singapore Tourism Board has also been in contact with the TACs to manage the impact and to assess the help needed, Mr Chan explained. “Our priority now is to work closely with MOM and NTUC to mitigate the fallout and support our workers affected to preserve their livelihoods,” he added.
Said Mr Chan: “At this point in time, I would also like to encourage our enterprises to refresh their business continuity plans, if they have not already done so.
“For the longer term, we will press on with our industry and market diversification plans to strengthen our resilience as an economic system.”
When asked if this year's Budget will reflect some measures to help an economy that might potentially be hit by the Wuhan virus, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said he does not want to "pre-empt" what will be in the Budget.
"We will continue to enhance (measures) as the situation evolves," he said. "There will be different groups who may need support and help. That will include specific areas of the economy which will be impacted."
Mr Wong said sectors like retail and tourism will feel a "greater impact" once travel restrictions "start to bite".
"So, we are monitoring these very carefully, working together with our economic agencies, and if need be, we will certainly respond, be it in the Budget, or as an off-Budget package," he added.
"We will make sure that we have resources available to help support our businesses, vulnerable groups as well as the economy."
Singapore has so far confirmed four cases of the Wuhan coronavirus - the fourth was announced early Sunday morning.
The first case of the novel coronavirus in Singapore was announced on Thursday, while two cases were confirmed on Friday. Of the 92 suspected cases, 46 have tested negative for the new coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China. Test results for the remaining 42 people are pending.
The Ministry of Health said there were no new confirmed cases of the Wuhan virus in Singapore as of noon on Sunday.
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