Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addressed a few points in his address to the nation on Saturday (Oct 9).
Singapore will likely take between three to six months to reach the “new normal”, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Saturday (Oct 9) in his address to the nation.
That is when Singapore will be able to ease off restrictions and have “light” safe management measures, while cases remain stable at hundreds a day but not growing.
A few countries in Europe have reached this state, PM Lee cited as an example, although he added that they have paid for it dearly, losing many lives along the way.
He conceded that the next few months will be “trying”, with daily cases expected to continue rising for some weeks. But he was also hopeful that the surge in COVID-19 cases will start to decline within a month or so.
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The emergence of the Delta variant, which is highly infectious, has put Singapore in a changed situation. That has brought about a change in strategy Singapore employs: from “Zero COVID” to living with COVID-19 as an endemic.
As the majority of Singaporeans have never experienced a COVID-19 infection, our natural immunity is low. Hence, Singaporeans are still at some risk of being infected, even after vaccination – which means that we must be prepared to see quite many COVID-19 cases for some time to come.
The number of cases since authorities eased the Heightened Alert came about “more sharply” than anticipated because the Delta variant was so infectious, said PM Lee.
As cases grow exponentially, the number of serious cases will also grow in step. And when the number of cases grows very large, our healthcare system will be rapidly overwhelmed. This is why authorities tightened up restrictions last month.
However, we need to be prepared that sooner or later, every one of us will meet the virus, PM Lee stated.
In order to live with COVID-19, Singaporeans must update our mindsets against the virus. We need to learn not to be “paralysed by fear”, while respecting COVID-19 still, said PM Lee.
“Let us go about our daily activities as normally as possible, taking necessary precautions and complying with SMMs. With vaccinations, COVID-19 has become a treatable, mild disease for most of us,” he said.
“This is especially so if you are young. Or even if you are not so young but fully vaccinated.”
The threat of COVID-19 is now mainly for seniors. For the rest, even if we catch COVID-19, we can recover by ourselves at home, just as we would if we had the flu, PM Lee explained.
However, we need to start taking personal and social responsibility. Singaporeans should start testing ourselves when necessary, self-isolate if we test positive, and consult a doctor if we have symptoms.
“By knowing what to do, we will no longer find COVID-19 such a scary disease,” stated PM Lee.
Singapore cannot be locked down and closed off indefinitely as each time restrictions are tightened, businesses are further disrupted, workers lose their jobs, children are deprived of their childhood and school life, and families are not able to come together.
All these cause psychological and emotional strain on Singaporeans, said PM Lee.
“It would not work, and it would be very costly. We would be unable to resume our lives, participate in social activities, open our borders, and revive our economy,” he added.
At the same time, Singapore must continue to reopen our borders safely.
This is because companies and investors need to carry out regional and global business from Singapore, which will keep Singapore connected to global supply chains and help to preserve Singapore’s hub status. Singaporeans working for these companies will need to travel to earn a living.
Additionally, students need to go on overseas attachments and internships without having to serve Stay-Home Notices each time they return. Families and friends will once in a while want to spend time together overseas, PM Lee noted.
Shortly after PM Lee’s speech, the Multi-Ministry Task Force (MTF) held a press conference announcing new COVID-19 rules.
These rules are intended to offer the unvaccinated further protection.
From Oct 13, unvaccinated individuals will not be allowed to enter shopping malls or dine-in at hawker centres and coffee shops. They are also not allowed to enter attractions.
Those who are unvaccinated can still buy take-away food. The limit of up to groups of two for social gatherings and dining-in still applies to those who are vaccinated.
Meanwhile, the Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTL) has been expanded to eight more countries: United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Spain, Denmark, France, Italy and the Netherlands. This follows Friday’s announcement that the VTL arrangement will be extended to South Korea.
The next few months will not be easy, with daily cases expected to continue rising for some weeks. PM Lee said that Singapore will not be able to stop the Delta variant, but on the bright side, the surge in cases will level off and numbers will start to decline.
This is expected to come within a month or so.
Pointing out that the fight against COVID-19 has been a long one, PM Lee said that Singapore is in a much better position now as compared to a year or six months ago.
“Sometimes it may not feel like it, but we are making steady progress towards the new normal. After this surge stabilises, we may still see future surges, especially if new variants emerge.
“We may have to tap on the brakes again if cases again grow too fast, to protect our healthcare system and healthcare workers. But we will be better able to cope with future surges. Our capacity and processes continue to improve,” he said.
He added that Singapore will take about three to six months to reach the new normal, when authorities start easing off restrictions and have just light safe management measures in place.
Cases will also remain stable, with just hundreds a day but not growing.
“COVID-19 has surprised us many times before, and may yet surprise us again. But get there we will. In a safe and careful manner, with no one left behind to fend for themselves, and with as few casualties as possible along the way,” he said.
“With everyone’s cooperation, we will put the pandemic behind us, hopefully soon.”
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