SINGAPORE-- Singapore will extend its COVID-19 "circuit breaker" period by four weeks to June 1 to stem the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Tuesday.
These circuit breaker measures, which involved home-based schooling and shutting most workplaces temporarily, were implemented two weeks ago and initially supposed to end on May 4.
In his address to the nation, Lee said that many will be disappointed by the extension of the circuit breaker, especially business and workers, who are hurting greatly.
"But I hope you understand that this short-term pain is to stamp out the virus, protect the health and safety of our loved ones, and allow us to revive our economy," he said.
The government will continue to help the businesses and workers cope during the extended "circuit breaker" period, Lee added.
According to him, the circuit breaker is starting to have an effect as the number of new cases in the local communities has fallen to below 30 new cases daily, as a result of people making sacrifices and adhering to the rules.
Singapore has seen a sharp increase in its total cases over the past 10 days. The Ministry of Health confirmed another 1,111 cases of the coronavirus disease on Tuesday, bringing the total number of cases to 9,125. The vast majority of these new cases are work permit holders residing in foreign worker dormitories. Lee acknowledged that the large number of cases at the dorms was "a serious problem."
Hence, Singapore will deploy more medical personnel to ensure workers with fever or flu symptoms receive appropriate and timely medical treatment. It will also house the mild cases either on site, in a separate facility within the dorm, or in community care facilities elsewhere.
Singapore has tested aggressively to assess the extent of the spread among the foreign workers, and Lee noted that almost all of the migrant workers have only mild symptoms.
"It is early days yet, but thankfully, so far none of the new cases of migrant workers have needed supplemental oxygen, or intensive care," said Lee.
To exit from the circuit breaker, Singapore must open up incrementally, in small steps, just like what New Zealand and Germany are beginning to do very cautiously, he said.
"They don't want to open up prematurely after lockdowns, only to find COVID-19 coming back, and then be forced to lock down a second time ... We should try our best to avoid this," explained Lee.
Secondly, Singapore needs to ramp up testing for COVID-19 substantially to quickly detect any new cases that pop up. It is beginning to do so by procuring test kits and equipment from other countries, but also by developing and manufacturing its own test kits. Singapore also needs to make full use of IT to raise the efficiency of contact tracing.
Noting that this has not been an easy time for everyone, Lee appealed for Singaporeans' support and cooperation.
"We are making progress, but we have not yet succeeded ... Let us go all out to beat the virus, and break the chain of transmission. We will overcome this together," he said.