20 March 2020

Singapore escalates COVID-19 response

Lawrence Wong, Singapore Minister for National Development and Second Minister for Finance and also the Co-chair of the Multi-Ministry Taskforce on COVID-19 has announced new measures to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak in Singapore. The country has seen a jump in cases, from 212 on March 14 to 385 on March 20.

Wong said, "We would like to see,when all of these measures are in place, (with) fewer people out and about, a reduction in social gatherings or any activity involving close contact that can be a potential vector for transmission of the virus."

The measures include:

- All large-scale gatherings have to be fewer than 250 people in size.

- Organisers of large-scale gatherings must ensure adequate distance apart when the participants or attendees are seated.

- All employers are asked to get employees to work from home. If that is not possible, then employees should go to the office on staggered hours so they do not all come at the same time and leave at the same time. These hours are preferably not during the peak period for transport.

- Safe distancing - people seated 1 m apart - should be enforced across the board – in entertainment venues, attractions, restaurants, food and beverage (F&B) outlets, hawker centres, and coffeeshops.

"We need Singaporeans to cooperate. We will be enforcing these rules. It will lead to some inconvenience, but we will need Singaporeans to cooperate and take responsibility for these changes. If we are all disciplined about this,it will give us better control over the situation, and enable us to suppress and slow down the spread of the virus. So we hope all Singaporeans will work with us – do our part to protect ourselves, our families, our friends and the people around us," Wong said.

The news follows an announcement from the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) of the removal of online product listings with false claims related to COVID-19. The products included health supplements, herbs, traditional medicines and products that can worn on or near the body.

Among the false and misleading claims were promises that the product could “strengthen the immune system against the coronavirus” or “prevent and cure coronavirus”, HSA said in a statement.

"There is currently no evidence that such products can prevent or treat COVID-19. HSA also detected rapid test kits which claimed to be able to diagnose COVID-19 within 10 minutes. Testing for COVID-19 can only be done by clinical laboratories or medical professionals in clinics and hospitals to ensure an accurate test result and diagnosis. Product listings with false claims related to COVID-19 made up about half the total number of listings taken down by HSA. Such fraudulent claims are not allowed and HSA will take actions against the sellers of these products."

Some 2,500 listings were removed in total.