Singapore PM orders schools and most businesses to close

Singapore on Friday ordered most workplaces to close and all students to study from home as it grapples with the spread of COVID-19.

Addressing the nation, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the new measures along with another 65 new cases, a growing number of which health officials cannot trace.

“Initially, many of the new cases were imported from overseas, mostly returning Singaporeans. Then last week, we began to have more local cases,” Lee said. “Furthermore, despite our good contact tracing, for nearly half of these cases, we do not know where or from whom the person caught the virus. This suggests that there are more people out there who are infected, but who have not been identified. And they may be passing the virus unknowingly to others.”

All students, from primary to university level, must study from home starting Wednesday, and most workplaces will be shut for a month starting Tuesday, Lee said. Workplaces in essential sectors such as banking and food and beverage will remain open. 

Lee; who delivered his address in English, Malay and Mandarin; also ordered Singaporeans to stay at home as much possible and step out “only to do essential things.” 

He said monitors would be deployed in public places to ensure people abide by safe-distancing measures. 

After winning early praise for its containment efforts, Singapore has seen a resurgence of detected infections. It also has remained relatively open compared to its neighbors, leaving schools and offices open. It’s nightlife continued to operate up until last week.

Singapore is also revising its approach with the use of face masks and stop discouraging people from using them. Reusable face masks will be distributed to all households from Sunday. 

Speaking after Lee, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said all primary and secondary schools will cancel mid-year exams this year.

Businesses in sectors offering essential services can remain open, according to Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing. They include healthcare, social services, food, energy, logistics, banking, security, and more.

Supermarkets, hawker centers and eateries will remain open but only for takeout, Chan added.

Confirmed coronavirus cases in Singapore crossed the 1,000-mark this week as the government detects more cases of people contracting the disease locally. 

Today’s new cases pushes total known infections to 1,114. The death toll also rose to five today, the latest being a resident of a nursing home linked to 11 other cases. 

Singapore has a total of nine active clusters of infection, of which three are linked to different migrant worker dormitories. The largest cluster is linked to the PCF SparkleTots preschool on Bedok North Street 2 with 27 cases. The school was ordered to close for two weeks. 


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