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Lawrence Wong: “When a vaccine becomes available, we’ll make sure that every Singaporean who needs it gets it”

Minister warns that, as more activities resume, there are also more opportunities for the virus to spread

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Singapore — In the second of a series of National Broadcasts by Government leaders, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong spoke on the theme, Living With Covid-19,  on Tuesday (June 9). One key message from his speech is that Singaporeans should not expect life to go back to normal after the circuit breaker ends.

According to Mr Wong, while circuit breaker measures have been effective thus far, the public is still at risk of contracting the virus. He said: “The vast majority of our population have not been exposed to the virus and are still vulnerable to the disease.” He added, however, that when a Covid-19 vaccine is available, the Government will make sure that everyone who needs it will receive it.

The minister warned that, as more activities resume and more individuals come into contact with one another, there are also more opportunities for the virus to spread. Thus, one should not be surprised by a rise in new cases. However, as long as community cases remain stable, Singapore can continue on “the path of progressive easing”.

Mr Wong highlighted the short-term and long-term approaches necessary in battling the virus. New methods have been developed and utilised to expand Singapore’s contact tracing and testing abilities, which are essential in battling the virus in the short-term.

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The TraceTogether and SafeEntry apps are prime examples of the Government’s use of technology to aid contact tracing. Beyond these apps, other efforts include procuring more test-kits, as well as recruiting and training more personnel to conduct the Covid-19 tests and getting blood samples. Currently, Singapore is conducting 13,000 tests a day and this number is set to increase to as high as 40,000 in the coming months, he said.

In the long run, an effective vaccine is key in the global fight against Covid-19. Both the global community and Singapore are working on it. Mr Wong said the Economic Development Board has been in negotiations with pharmaceutical companies to develop a vaccine locally. He promised: “If and when a vaccine becomes available, we will make sure that every Singaporean who needs it gets it, and at an affordable price.”

However, he warned that while there are efforts currently to develop a vaccine, “it will take a long time for any vaccine to be ready and available for mass distribution”. Singaporeans must, therefore, “adapt to Covid-19 and learn to live with it over the long-term”.

Covid-19 has precipitated changes in all aspects of life that will likely continue in the post-circuit breaker period, according to the minister. In the workplace, new arrangements like remote working and staggered shifts have become the norm. Businesses have also adapted new business models and changed their business practices to survive the economic downturn. Additionally, urban plans will need to accommodate new demands, such as automatic doors and better ventilation, to minimise virus transmission in enclosed spaces.

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At the individual level, Mr Wong emphasised that everyone needs to adapt their “expectations, lifestyles and norms” to fit this new climate. This means that Singaporeans should not expect to return to their usual routine before the outbreak, travel or gather in large groups any time soon. /TISG

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