Singapore must prepare for cases to rise, minister says



People wearing protective surgical masks walk along the Merlion Park, a major tourist attraction in Singapore.

Maverick Asio l SOPA Images l LightRocket via Getty Images

Singapore must be prepared for the number of people in the country infected with the new coronavirus disease — formally named COVID-19 — to continue to climb in the coming weeks, a minister said on Friday.

As of Thursday noon, Singapore had 58 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 15 of which have recovered and been discharged, according to the country’s Ministry of Health. The Southeast Asian nation with a population of 5.7 million has one of the highest numbers of cases outside China.

Singapore has not recorded any deaths, but that too is something people must be “psychologically prepared” for as the number of cases continues to rise, said Janil Puthucheary, senior minister of state at Singapore’s Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Communications and Information.

“I think it’s really too early to talk about a peak. Cases are coming in on a daily basis and you have to have the expectation there are going to be more cases over the next few weeks,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia.”

“The issue is really whether these are going to be cases that are linked to the existing spread, existing cluster, links to China or whether we have an increasing number of cases that are unlinked community spread … At the moment, most of the cases can be linked back to known clusters,” he added.

Singapore, as an open economy, is one of the most vulnerable countries to reduced economic activity in China. The world’s second-largest economy is Singapore’s biggest export market and largest source of international tourists.

The Singapore government has announced measures to help sectors that are most affected by the virus outbreak, such as tourism and transport. Those measures so far have included:

  • Waiving license fees for hotels, travel agents and tourist guides
  • Covering part of the cleaning costs for hotels where people who are suspected and confirmed cases stayed
  • Relief for taxi and private-hire drivers


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