PM Lee says Singapore to take 3-6 months for 'new normal', rules out Covid lockdown

The new normal will mean easing restrictions and just having light measures in place, with cases remaining stable at perhaps a few hundred a day but not growing, the Prime Minister said.

Published: 09th October 2021 01:43 PM  |   Last Updated: 09th October 2021 01:43 PM   |  A+A-

A man wearing a face mask poses for a photo with the Merlion statue in the background

A man wearing a face mask poses for a photo with the Merlion statue in the background. (Photo | AP)


SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Saturday said that Singapore will take from three to six months to get to a 'new normal' once the COVID-19 cases are stabilised and assured that the city-state cannot be closed off indefinitely.

While the country has to be prepared to see many coronavirus cases 'for some time to come', Singapore cannot be locked down and closed off indefinitely, Lee said in his televised address to the nation on the pandemic.

"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. All these cause psychological and emotional strain, and mental fatigue,' he said on the prospects of a lockdown.

"It will take us at least three months, and perhaps as long as six months to get to this new normal," Lee said.

A few countries have reached this state for example in Europe, but they have paid for it dearly, losing many lives along the way, he said.

The new normal will mean easing restrictions and just having light measures in place, with cases remaining stable at perhaps a few hundred a day but not growing, the Prime Minister said.

Under the new normal, hospitals will also go back to 'business as usual', and people can resume pre-pandemic activities and see crowds again 'without getting worried or feeling strange'.

This is when Singapore can ease off restrictions and have 'light" safe management measures, with cases stable at "perhaps hundreds a day, but not growing", said Lee.

"Sometimes it may not feel like it, but we are making steady progress towards the new normal," he said.

However, Lee noted that there may be future surges, especially if new variants emerge.

"We may have to tap on the brakes 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," he said.

Acknowledging that the next few months will be "trying", the Prime Minister said that the surge will “hopefully” level off and decline within a month or so.

"As pressure eases off on the healthcare system, we can relax our restrictions. But we will have to do so cautiously, to avoid starting a new wave again."

"We must protect our healthcare system and workers at all costs, in order to get through the pandemic safely," he said.

The emergence of the "highly infectious" Delta variant has put Singapore in a "changed situation", said Lee.

"Even with our whole population vaccinated, we still will not be able to stamp it out through lockdowns and SMMs (Safe Management Measures). Almost every country has accepted this reality," he said.

Even with stringent safe management measures keeping COVID-19 cases down, the virus will spread "swiftly" again once the government loosens the measures, he said.

While the war against COVID-19 continues, Singapore is in a "much better position now", said Lee, calling on Singaporeans to protect hospitals and healthcare workers and be the "first line of defence", telling them to comply with safe management measures and cut back on social activities.

He also urged people to get vaccinated and go for their booster shots, self-test regularly and for the infected to recover at home unless they have serious illness or vulnerable family members.

"Please don't rush to the A&E (at the hospitals) with mild symptoms. Let us reserve hospital capacity for those who need it most - serious COVID-19 cases as well as others with serious illnesses."

"With everyone's cooperation, we will put the pandemic behind us, hopefully soon. We have the resources, the determination and the courage to get through this crisis. Let's keep that up and continue working together to complete the journey towards COVID-resilience," Lee said.

However, with a limit to how much the country can expand in terms of manpower, Singapore has to moderate the surge in COVID-19 cases, he said.

As part of living with COVID-19, Singapore must also connect itself back to the world, he said, adding that the country must continue to re-open its borders safely.

Singapore started vaccinated travel lanes with Germany and Brunei, as well as with South Korea on Friday.

"These pilot projects have shown it is possible for vaccinated persons to travel safely, while letting in very few COVID-19 positive cases."

"We are implementing more such arrangements, especially with countries whose COVID-19 situations are stable," he said.

This, he said, will keep Singapore connected to global supply chains and help to preserve the city state's hub status.

"Companies and investors need to carry out regional and global business from Singapore, people working for them need to travel to earn a living," he said.

"Students need to go on overseas attachments and internships without having to SHN (Stay-Home Notice) each time, families and friends will once in a while want to spend time together, overseas," he said.

Meanwhile, Singapore reported 3,590 infections on Friday, including 765 in migrant worker dormitories as well as six deaths.

As of Friday, Singapore has reported a total of 120,454 COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic and 142 deaths.


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