Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced on Friday that schools and most workplaces in the country, except for essential services like supermarkets, transport and banks, will be closed for a month from April 7 due to the coronavirus pandemic, Reuters reported.
Lee said that the government made the decisive move early so that it does not have to increasingly tighten restrictions over the coming weeks. “We have decided that instead of tightening incrementally over the next few weeks, we should make a decisive move now, to pre-empt escalating infections,” he said in a speech.
The new measures will be in place from April 7 until May 4, Lee said. He added that the restrictions could be extended beyond a month if the situation did not improve. Lee also urged residents to stay at home as much as possible and take social distancing seriously. “Please bear with the painful adjustments that we have to make,” Lee said in his speech.
Singapore has reported over 1,100 cases of the coronavirus and there have been five deaths. The country has been praised internationally for its efforts to control the spread of infection.
The World Health Organization had said last month that countries cannot just go under lockdown to combat coronavirus, and that public health measures are required to avoid an outbreak later. “The danger right now with the lockdowns...if we don’t put in place the strong public health measures now, when those movement restrictions and lockdowns are lifted, the danger is the disease will jump back up.” Michael Ryan, the executive director of WHO Health Emergencies Programme, had said.
Several countries have imposed strict restrictions to slow down the rapidly spreading coronavirus. Italy – the country with most number of deaths due to the coronavirus – began a major lockdown on 12 March, which has been extended beyond the original end date of 25 March. France, Spain, US and UK have also tightened restrictions on movement. More than a million cases of coronavirus have been registered globally and over 53,000 people have died.
India, the world’s second most populous nation, had announced a three-week lockdown on March 24, when there were 519 cases of the coronavirus in the country and 10 people had died. The lockdown came into effect just four hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the announcement.