Singapore leader rules out lockdown amid coronavirus

SINGAPORE – Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday, March 12, ruled out a lockdown of the city-state due to the novel coronavirus disease called COVID-19, as he said Singapore should tighten precautionary measures but not shut itself off from the world.

"We are not locking down our city like the Chinese, South Koreans, or Italians have done. What we are doing now is to plan ahead for some of these more stringent measures, try them out, and prepare Singaporeans for when we actually need to implement them," Lee said in his second national address on COVID-19, posted online in English, Chinese, and Malay at around 8 pm on Thursday.

The Singaporean leader stressed that "the situation in Singapore remains under control." He said the city-state will not raise Code Red under its Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (Dorscon), a 4-tier color-coded system for disease outbreaks. Code Red is the highest level under Dorscon, the equivalent of the Philippines’ Code Red Sublevel 2.

Lee added, "We will have to tighten up further temporarily, though we cannot completely shut ourselves off from the world."

Lee then thanked Singaporeans for heeding the government's appeals to only wear face masks when they are unwell, and not to hoard food or household items. 

"What makes Singapore different from other countries is that we have confidence in each other, we feel that we are all in this together, and we do not leave anyone behind," said Lee.

Singapore has had 187 cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday.

Of this number, 96 cases have fully recovered and been discharged from the hospital, and 91 are still confined. Most of those in the hospital are stable and improving, while 9 are in critical condition. Singapore has recorded zero deaths due to COVID-19.

At least 7 of Singapore's coronavirus cases are Filipinos. One of them is a permanent resident of Singapore, two are domestic helpers under the same employer who also contracted COVID-19, and 4 are Filipino workers who recently visited the Philippines. (READ: Coronavirus sa Singapore: Tips para sa mga Pilipino

Singapore has been on Code Orange – the equivalent of the Philippines' Code Red Sublevel 1 – since February 7, after local transmissions of the novel coronavirus were detected in the city-state. The Philippines raised Code Red Sublevel 1 on Saturday, March 7, after the government confirmed local transmissions of COVID-19.

Lee has been praised for his reassuring messages on the coronavirus disease, in contrast to leaders like Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who recently delivered a rambling impromptu speech on COVID-19.

In his first national address on COVID-19 on February 8, Lee said, "Fear can do more harm than the virus itself." – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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