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PM Lee Hsien Loong on the Novel Coronavirus (nCoV) Situation in Singapore on 8 February 2020

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This article was originally seen on https://www.pmo.gov.sg/Newsroom/PM-Lee-Hsien-Loong-on-the-Novel-Coronavirus-nCoV-Situation-in-Singapore-on-8-February-2020

PM Lee Hsien Loong's remarks in English, Chinese and Malay, on the Novel Coronavirus (nCoV) Situation in Singapore, delivered on 8 February 2020.

We have faced the new coronavirus (nCoV) situation for about two weeks now.

The Ministerial Task Force, advised by DPM Heng Swee Keat, has been leading the Government’s response to this outbreak. They have been dealing with new developments every day, and holding regular press briefings to keep Singaporeans informed every step of the way. Today, I want to speak to you directly, to explain where we are, and what may lie ahead.

We went through SARS 17 years ago, so we are much better prepared to deal with nCoV this time. Practically, we have stockpiled adequate supplies of masks and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). We have expanded and upgraded our medical facilities, including the new National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID). We have more advanced research capabilities to study the virus. We have more well trained doctors and nurses to deal with this situation. We are psychologically better prepared too. Singaporeans know what to expect, and how to react. Most importantly, having overcome SARS once, we know that we can pull through this too.

The new coronavirus is similar to SARS, but with two important differences. First, the new virus is more infectious than SARS. Therefore it is harder to stop it from spreading. Second, the new virus is much less dangerous than SARS. About 10 per cent of those who caught SARS died. With the new virus, outside of Hubei province, the mortality rate is so far only 0.2 per cent. In comparison, seasonal influenza has a death rate of 0.1 per cent. So in terms of mortality, the new virus is much closer to influenza than SARS.

But the situation is still evolving. Every day brings new developments, and we have to respond promptly and dynamically. So far, most of our cases have either been imported from China, or can be traced to imported cases. When we discover them, we have isolated the patients, done contact tracing and quarantined close contacts. This has contained the spread and helped stamp out several local clusters. But in the last few days, we have seen some cases which cannot be traced to the source of infection. These worried us, because it showed that the virus is probably already circulating in our own population. This is why we raised the DORSCON to Orange yesterday, and are stepping up measures. We are reducing mingling in schools. We are tightening up access to our hospitals. We are taking extra precautions at large public events. I have already postponed my Chinese New Year Istana Garden Party for grassroots leaders, which was to be held tomorrow. We have raised DORSCON to Orange before. You may not remember, but this was in 2009, for the H1N1 swine flu. So there is no need to panic. We are not locking down the city or confining everybody to stay at home. We have ample supplies, so there is no need to stock up with instant noodles, tinned food, or toilet paper, as some people did yesterday.

Whatever the situation, we can each do our part. One, observe personal hygiene – wash your hands often, and avoid touching your eyes or face unnecessarily. Two, take your temperature twice daily. And three, if you are not well, please avoid crowded places and see a doctor immediately. These simple steps do not take much effort, but if we all do them, they will go a long way towards containing the spread of the virus.

Right now, we are continuing to do contact tracing and to quarantine close contacts. But I expect to see more cases with no known contacts in the coming days.

If the numbers keep growing, at some point we will have to reconsider our strategy. If the virus is widespread, it is futile to try to trace every contact. If we still hospitalise and isolate every suspect case, our hospitals will be overwhelmed. At that point, provided that the fatality rate stays low like flu, we should shift our approach. Encourage those who only have mild symptoms to see their family GP, and rest at home instead of going to the hospital, and let hospitals and healthcare workers focus on the most vulnerable patients – the elderly, young children, and those with medical complications.

We are not at that point yet. It may or may not happen, but we are thinking ahead and anticipating the next few steps. And I am sharing these possibilities with you, so that we are all mentally prepared for what may come.

I am confident of the medical outcome of this outbreak. Most Singaporeans should remain well, and of those who get ill most should expect to recover. Among those who have been hospitalised so far, most are stable or improving. Several have already recovered and been discharged, although a few remain in critical condition.

But the real test is to our social cohesion and psychological resilience. Fear and anxiety are natural human reactions. We all want to protect ourselves and our families from what is still a new and unknown disease. But fear can do more harm than the virus itself. It can make us panic, or do things which make matters worse, like circulating rumours online, hoarding facemasks or food, or blaming particular groups for the outbreak. We should take courage and see through this stressful time together.

That is in fact what many Singaporeans are doing. Grassroots leaders and Team Nila volunteers have stepped forward to help distribute masks to households. University students are delivering food daily to schoolmates confined to their dorms on leave of absence. Healthcare workers are on the front line, treating patients in hospitals and clinics and helping them get well again. Business federations, unions, public transport workers, are going the extra mile to maintain services, take care of workers, and keep Singapore running. They are inspirations to all of us. This is what it means to be Singaporean. This is who we are.

Let us stay united and resolute in this new coronavirus outbreak. Take sensible precautions, help one another, stay calm, and carry on with our lives.

Remarks in Chinese by PM Lee Hsien Loong on the Novel Coronavirus (nCoV) Situation in Singapore on 8 February 2020

两个星期前,新加坡发现了第一起新型冠状病毒确诊病例。政府成立 了跨部门工作小组,统筹防疫措施。这里我要跟大家谈一谈我对本地局势 的看法,同时,也要告诉大家,我们要如何同心协力,共同抗炎。

我们在应对传染病疫情方面已经更有把握。因为从十七年前爆发的 SARS 疫情,我们吸取到非常宝贵的经验。从那个时候开始,我们就做了许 多准备,严阵以待。而且现在医疗科技发达,能够更有效的治疗病患。

这个新型冠状病毒和 SARS 病毒有类似的地方,也有不同之处。新病 毒的致命率比 SARS 病毒来得低。但是新病毒的传染力或许比 SARS 病毒强。 而且,患者在没有出现症状的潜伏期就可能会传播病毒。造成防止传播的 工作更加艰巨。因此当我们注意到有源头不明的病例,我们就决定把 DORSCON 警戒级别从黄色调高到橙色。

警戒级别是橙色的话,我们必须做的防范措施就包括:建议每个人都 要每天量体温两次,注意自己的健康情况。大型活动也暂时取消,以免病 毒扩散。但是政府并没有规定大家一定要留在家里,不准出门。防范措施 多一些,活动少一些,不过大家还是可以照常生活。

所以请大家不要慌张,不要囤积食物及日常用品。我们有足够的柴米 油盐。快熟面、罐装食品和,连卫生纸也货源充足。但如果大家都去超市 抢购的话,那就肯定无法满足需求了。

局势是不停的演变。在追踪同确诊病例有密切接触的人时,可能就会 发现新病例。根据情况,我们会采取适当的应对措施,例如暂时关闭某所 学校或工作场所。最重要的就是保障大家的健康和安全。

应该做的,能够做的,政府一定会去做,我们也需要大家配合,维持 自己的个人卫生和健康,万众一心,消灭病毒。请记得经常用肥皂洗手, 避免触摸自己的脸或眼睛。在这段时间,请记得量体温。如果身体不舒服, 请立刻去看医生。但是,如果没有生病,请大家做好防范,继续过正常的 生活。

虽然现在警戒级别是橙色,但我们都希望,国家和人民的生活可以早 日回到以往的情况。不过,在我看来,按照当前的疫情,这肯定还需要一 段时间。因此我们必须做好心理准备,随时应对任何新状况。

其实,最大的考验不是病毒的问题,而是我们如何维护我国的社会凝 聚力,做好心理防备,共同抗炎。面对新病毒的惶恐,我能够理解。但是 如果变成惊慌失措,这无济于事。希望大家可以用平常心对待,不用急着 大量囤积生活必需品,请让其他人也有机会购买他们所需要的东西。也不 要轻易的相信假新闻,或上传没有确认过的消息。

要战胜这个病毒,就需要全国人民万众一心。我很欣慰,也有不少国 人,发挥爱心,互相关怀。例如:帮助被隔离的同学送三餐、把口罩送给 陌生人。这种雪中送炭的精神值得表扬。我也要感谢我们的医疗团队,无 微不至,细心照顾病人。在他们专业的照料下,已经有几位患者康复出院 了。

只要大家团结一致,处变不惊,我有信心,在控制疫情方面,我们可 以取得成功。

Remarks in Malay by PM Lee Hsien Loong on the Novel Coronavirus (nCoV) Situation in Singapore on 8 February 2020

Saudara-saudari sekalian, kita telah menaikkan tahap DORSCON ke jingga. Ini kerana Pemerintah mahu melindungi rakyat Singapura sebaik mungkin.

Ancaman virus korona baru ini sedang pesat berkembang. Kita mesti berani untuk segera bertindak dan dengan sewajarnya, termasuk mengambil langkah-langkah tegas.

Dan kita harus yakin bahawa bersama-sama, kita boleh mengatasinya. Kita pernah menewaskan wabak SARS dahulu. Kini, kita lebih bersedia menangani virus baru ini.

Setiap kita ada peranan. Ikuti nasihat Kementerian Kesihatan dan dapatkan maklumat terkini dari sumber yang sahih seperti MUIS dan khidmat WhatsApp Gov.sg. Jaga kebersihan diri sendiri, keluarga dan sekitaran kita, dan ambil langkah berjaga-jaga. Jika anda tidak sihat, segeralah berjumpa doktor. Teruskan kehidupan anda seperti biasa.

Pemerintah akan melipat gandakan usaha untuk mengekang ancaman ini dengan sedaya upaya. Namun kita juga harus bersedia jika keadaan menjadi bertambah buruk.

Kita belum sampai ke tahap itu, dan mungkin ia tidak akan berlaku.

Namun, cabaran sebenar ancaman ini ialah kesannya terhadap perpaduan sosial dan daya tahan psikologi kita. Sifat takut dan cemas adalah suatu yang semulajadi. Saya faham penyakit ini baru, dan kita semua mahu melindungi diri sendiri dan orang-orang yang kita sayangi. Tetapi, rasa cemas itu boleh menjadi lebih bahaya daripada virus itu sendiri. Jadi, jangan biarkan rasa cemas membuat kita panik atau mengambil tindakan yang memburukkan lagi keadaan. Jangan sebarkan berita palsu. Jangan membeli bekalan pelitup dan makanan dengan berlebihan. Jangan menuduh mana-mana kumpulan bagi apa yang sedang berlaku sekarang.

Sebaliknya, ayuh kita bantu membantu sesama jiran tetangga, sahabat handai dan rakyat yang lain, khususnya mereka yang lebih memerlukan.

Dalam masa-masa sukar ini, saya terharu melihat ramai rakyat Singapura yang menghulurkan bantuan. Ada yang memberikan pelitup secara percuma kepada orang ramai. Ada pelajar yang membekalkan makanan kepada teman-teman yang menjalani cuti ketidakhadiran. Dan para pekerja kesihatan yang bertarung nyawa di barisan hadapan merawat pesakit-pesakit kita. Terima kasih atas pengorbanan anda. Anda menjadi sumber inspirasi kita semua.

Ayuh kita terus bertenang dan bersatu-padu. Saya yakin bersama-sama, kita boleh mengatasi apa jua cabaran.

Terima kasih.