Singapore in 'much better shape' 2 years after COVID-19 circuit breaker, but 'far from being out of the woods': PM Lee
SINGAPORE: On the second anniversary of the rollout of the most stringent set of measures Singapore has implemented against COVID-19 to date, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the country is in a "much better shape" but is "far from being out of the woods".
In 2020, Singapore entered what became known as the "circuit breaker", encompassing a set of lockdown orders that were in force from Apr 7 to Jun 1.
"Faced with a surge in unlinked COVID-19 cases, we made this difficult and drastic decision to bring down the numbers and protect lives," said Mr Lee in a Facebook post on Thursday (Apr 7).
"Shops and businesses were closed, many employees shifted to working remotely, while schools implemented full home-based learning.
"Our streets fell silent. It was a time of disruptive change. Major sectors ground to a halt, and our economy took a hit."
Mr Lee said Singapore remained united and resilient in the tough situation, as people volunteered to help the vulnerable, and brought food and groceries to those unable to do so themselves.
The Government also rolled out "comprehensive" financial support measures to save livelihoods and businesses, with nearly S$100 billion spent in five Budgets to help Singapore tide through the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, he noted.
"Meanwhile healthcare and essential workers bore the brunt of the load, to keep our society functioning."
"Today, we are in much better shape. Most of us are vaccinated and boostered. Many have gotten the virus and recovered from it, raising our population immunity," said Mr Lee.
He added that Singapore has also established COVID-19 safe management measures that could be "dialed up or down" as needed.
"As a society, we are also acting safely and responsibly. Despite our relaxed mask-wearing rules, I’m glad to see most Singaporeans have cautiously chosen to keep their masks on outdoors," said Mr Lee.
However, Singapore is "far from being out of the woods", with the country's healthcare system still facing a heavy load and healthcare workers "working tirelessly day and night", he added.
As the country adjusts to the new normal, Mr Lee reminded people to continue to exercise social and personal responsibility, such as testing themselves if one feels unwell, as well as abiding by prevailing safe management measures.
"Let’s continue marching forward to get through this pandemic together," he said.
What was the circuit breaker and how did it affect Singapore?
Announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Apr 3, 2020, and rolled out just four days later, the circuit breaker, which ran from Apr 7 to Jun 1, saw Singapore placed under its strictest restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic to date.
Initially planned to last until May 4, the circuit breaker saw most workplaces closed except for those providing essential services. Schools also shifted to full home-based learning at this time.
People in Singapore were only allowed to leave their homes for a handful of reasons, among them: To get essential goods, to go to work with an essential service provider, to seek medical assistance and to exercise.
A new law banning social gatherings both in private and public spaces was passed. Dining-in at eateries was not allowed while marriage solemnisations also had to be postponed. The Government also made it clear that except for certain groups of parents, children were not to be dropped off at their grandparents’ homes.
On Apr 14, the wearing of masks was made compulsory for anyone stepping outside their homes.
On Apr 20, Singapore reported a record 1,426 new COVID-19 cases. Most were in foreign worker dormitories. This would remain a record for the country until the surge driven by the Delta coronavirus variant more than a year later.
A day later, it was announced that the circuit breaker would be extended by almost a month until Jun 1, while restrictions were further tightened. This saw more businesses closed while entry restrictions were imposed at some wet markets and supermarkets.
On May 5, some circuit breaker restrictions were lifted, which allowed people to get haircuts and receive traditional Chinese medicine treatments.
Two weeks later, it was announced that Singapore would exit the circuit breaker in accordance with a three-phase reopening plan. Singapore duly moved moved into Phase 1 of its reopening on Jun 1.