Singapore—Singapore’s Minister for Home Affairs and Law K Shanmugam said that fighting against the coronavirus will take a “very long time,” along with the huge economic fallout that will follow.
In an interview with CNBC, he said that the effects from the Covid-19 pandemic may span a number of generations and are most likely graver than economic crises in the years past.
He told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Wednesday (Apr 7), “We are fighting on the health front, but there’s also a huge economic cost. The measures we take, we know that this fight, certainly the economic fight, will be for a very long time.
You’re looking at economic devastation. Businesses destroyed, people’s lives ruined, and in such a situation, you don’t talk contract. You talk equity, you talk justice, you talk about what is the right thing to do.”
On April 6, a new bill was passed in Parliament giving temporary relief to companies and individuals who, because of the Covid-19 outbreak, are not able to fulfill contractual obligations. They would be given a six-month shield from these obligations.
The Minister added, “The state has every right in such situations, if you look at precedent, to intervene in a temporary way, to give relief, hold the fort, allow people to take stock of their situation.”
This, he explained, was being done toward a more equitable distribution of economic hardship, but do not release people from their contractual obligations, and instead merely offer relief for the time being.
Mr Shanmugam said that there is no point in insisting that every contractual right should be followed at the moment since this would “suck the life out of the economy.”
He added that everyone needs to be protected.
Singapore saw its first coronavirus case on January 23. The number of people infected with Covid-19 had stayed low throughout February, but the country saw a spike in the number of cases in March, when thousands of expatriates came home, including tourists as well as students from different universities abroad.
The number of local transmissions has been growing of late as well, with as many as one-third of them unconnected to any previous cases. Recent studies have shown that 10 percent of new infections could have been sparked by people who showed no symptoms of the disease at all.
There are now a total of 1,481 confirmed coronavirus cases in Singapore, with 106 added on April 7. Six people have died and 377 have been discharged from hospital. There are 29 people in critical condition, while 627 are in stable or improving condition. The other 471 people who have recovered from Covid-19 but have still tested positive are in isolation in other hospitals around the island.
The recent uptick in the numbers of confirmed infections is why Singapore recently imposed more stringent containment measures to prevent a wider spread of Covid-19, so as not to overwhelm its healthcare system.
Mr Shanmugam said, “We’ve got to take whatever steps that are necessary to make sure that the numbers are kept down.”
Explaining the penalties for those who transgress the new restrictions, the Minister said, “When it has the force of law, then people will take it more seriously.” —/TISG
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