COVID-19 case numbers stabilising, but ‘anything could happen’: Gan Kim Yong urges caution before opening up
SINGAPORE: While the number of COVID-19 cases has stabilised over the last few days, it is still important for authorities to continue monitoring the situation before opening up, said co-chair of the COVID-19 multi-ministry taskforce Gan Kim Yong.
“You may suggest that we are probably nearing the peak, but anything could happen,” he told Parliament on Friday (Mar 4) in response to questions on Singapore’s efforts to open up.
“So it's important for us to make sure that we continue to monitor and watch carefully, before opening up in a big way.”
Singapore reported 18,162 new COVID-19 cases as of noon on Thursday, with most of them Protocol 2 cases or those who are well or assessed to have a mild condition.
The weekly infection growth rate remained unchanged at 0.98, making it the second day in a row that the weekly infection growth rate is below 1.
“It’s also important to recognise that with all the measures that we put in place, we have been able to keep the serious cases low, manageable (and) ICU cases are manageable,” Mr Gan said.
“But at the same time, the large number of cases also means that our hospitals are very, very busy. So, it’s important for us to ensure that the healthcare system is protected and allow the patients to be taken care of properly.
“This will then give us more capacity to open up.”
Mr Gan, who is also Trade and Industry Minister, acknowledged that it is important for the economy to continue on the path to living with COVID-19.
Safe management measures, including safe distancing and group size limits, “put a strain” on domestic sectors like retail as well as food and beverage, he said.
“It is also important for us to progressively allow workers to go back to work,” he added, noting that the rules currently require 50 per cent of workers to work from home where possible.
“But we have to recognise that it is important for businesses to bring their workers together. Because there are many team efforts that cannot be done with workers working from home," Mr Gan said.
“So, we need to progressively restore working on site, allowing workers to go back to work. And this will help us to open up our economy and allow the economy to recover faster.”
Another “critical” aspect of the economy is Singapore’s status as a global hub for business, travel, talent, ideas and investments, said Mr Gan.
“And that's why we are continuing to open up our inter-connectivity,” he said, pointing to the expansion of vaccinated travel lanes.
Singapore on Friday announced that it will extend the quarantine-free travel scheme to Vietnam and Greece, as well as to more cities in Malaysia, Indonesia and India.
“We are bringing more and more important visitors. We are also allowing more workers to return from overseas. Some of them have returned home and unable to come back,” Mr Gan said.
“The construction sector, for example, is still facing constraints and we hope to be able to bring back more of these workers through the opening of vaccinated travel lanes.”