DPM Heng Swee Keat on the COVID-19 situation in Singapore on 16 February 2020

DPM Heng Swee Keat | 16 February 2020

DPM Heng Swee Keat's remarks in English and Chinese, on the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation in Singapore, delivered on 16 February 2020.


Click here for DPM Heng Swee Keat's remarks in Chinese or scroll down.

COVID-19 came rather unexpectedly, and has evolved rapidly. The Ministerial Task Force, co-chaired by Kim Yong and Lawrence, has been leading our efforts to tackle this challenge.

We are taking a risk-based approach, stepping up safeguards as the situation changes. We raised the DORSCON to Orange last Friday, when we had the first indications of local transmission. We will introduce more measures as needed, as we did on Friday, in establishing the Public Health Preparedness Clinics.

Our teams managing the situation are highly dedicated, some of them had experience dealing with H1N1 and SARS. They are working round the clock to keep us safe, and to care for those who are unwell. Contact tracing is in place, enabling us to identify clusters early, so that we can better reduce the spread. Our teams are also working in close collaboration with their overseas counterparts to share information, and to combat this outbreak together.

I would like to express my deep appreciation to all our healthcare and frontline staff for their dedication, hard work and sacrifice. You have our full support!

I am also heartened by how our people have rallied together. Everyone has something to offer, and every action makes a difference.

I spoke to our SCDF officers and their supporting teams at Kallang Fire Station. They are well-trained, well-prepared and morale is high.

I am also glad that many have shown their appreciation for those on the frontline. The TeamSG athletes were also here today, to show support for the SCDF. This shows we are all in this together!

We have been able to mount a swift response to this sudden outbreak because we learnt from our past experience. We have built up capabilities over the years, and learnt to adjust our approach as the situation develops

Today, beyond what we have already put in place, I want to highlight three other responses that will help see us through this outbreak. First, mobilising our new capabilities; second, supporting our businesses and workers; and third, strengthening our social resilience.


First, mobilising our new capabilities. We learnt the hard way from SARS in 2003. So we now have new capabilities that enable us to better respond. We built new healthcare capabilities, including the National Centre for Infectious Diseases, and better infrastructure across our healthcare system to deal with outbreaks like this. But one lesser known area in this fight is the role of science and technology.

Strong R&D capabilities are essential to mounting an effective response to the outbreak so that we may respond better to this new virus based on facts and scientific evidence. Over the past three decades, we invested significantly in building up our research and development eco-system, especially in health and bio-medical sciences.

Since the outbreak, our research community has been working hard behind the scenes in partnership with our healthcare community and companies, and building on our strong networks with the international community to collaborate with scientists from around the world.

Just over a week after the viral sequence was made available, our researchers developed a diagnostic kit for the virus. This has been very helpful in our screening efforts for suspected cases. To help with the global fight against the virus, we are contributing test kits for 20,000 tests to China. China is putting in significant effort, and doing the best they can. All of us will benefit from China’s success in overcoming the outbreak. So Singapore and the global community must do our part to contribute to this effort.

Our research community is intensifying their work with their global partners to better understand the nature of the virus and how it spreads, so that we can fight it more effectively. To develop faster diagnostic tests that are simpler to run, so that we can detect and intervene with greater precision, and to trial new treatments and potential vaccines.

While dealing with the immediate challenges, I want to assure Singaporeans that we are doing our best, mobilising our full resources across Government and society, to fight the outbreak, and to better protect you.


Second, supporting our companies and workers. We also need to deal with the economic impact of the outbreak and the new uncertainties it brings. Some sectors have been hard hit, such as tourism and transport, and we have already taken targeted measures to support them. But we can expect to see a broader impact on the economy. As confidence is affected, businesses and consumers could cut back on spending. The disruption to the global supply chain – a result of the interruptions to production in China – will also affect trade and manufacturing. Our workers and firms are understandably concerned.

On Budget Day on Tuesday, I will set out a set of broad-based measures to support viable companies and help workers stay in their jobs. We will provide wage support to help companies preserve jobs for local workers. We will provide tax rebates and rental waivers, to help companies with their cash flow. We will give more support to sectors that have been harder hit, including Food & Beverage and Retail. We will also support firms and workers to make the best use of this period to restructure, train, and upgrade, so that we emerge stronger when the eventual upturn comes.

In this time of uncertainty, I know that households are more concerned about their expenses. So I will introduce a package to help households with their cost of living.

Never doubt that Singapore has the means to bounce back from this outbreak. I assure you as Finance Minister that this Government will do all that is necessary to get workers and companies hit hard by this global health crisis, back on their feet. With all these additional support measures, you have my assurance that we will rebound from this. Never fear.


Finally, we need to strengthen our social and psychological resilience in this fight against COVID-19. I understand many are feeling anxious and uncertain. Let’s turn our fears and anxieties into concrete action that each of us can take, to play a part in this fight.

Start by looking after yourself. Observe good personal hygiene – let’s develop this discipline: Wash your hands regularly, and avoid touching your face. Stay updated on the situation from credible sources. Be discerning about what you read on social media.

Let’s all be socially responsible – See a doctor if you are unwell. Stay home if you are on medical leave, and do not mingle with other people. If you are well, carry on with normal life as far as possible. And do not panic buy or spread rumours. We have enough supplies of food, and an adequate stockpile of masks and other essential items, if used responsibly. We are actively replenishing our supplies and stockpiles from a diverse range of sources. But if you hoard, this will deny others with real needs.

Let’s also care for others. I am inspired by the many examples of generosity and kindness shown by Singaporeans. These may be simple acts, but they demonstrate best of the Singapore spirit. SG United is our rallying call for this outbreak in a Whole-of-Society effort. The outbreak is a test of our social cohesion and our psychological resilience. We can all do more to help those around us, and we can speak and act with hope and care.


Together, we can overcome this outbreak and emerge stronger and more united, as one people.



Remarks in Chinese by DPM Heng Swee Keat on the COVID-19 Situation in Singapore on 16 February 2020


这些年来,我们未雨绸缪,不断强化我国应对传染病毒的整体能力。对抗2019冠状病毒疾病,我们动用了新的防疫能力。而科研工作就是其中一个重要的部分。过去30年来,我们投入了大量资源,让我国有一个健全的科研生态系统。这些努力都有了成果。例如:我们设立了国家传染病中心,也有更多的专业医疗团队。此外,科研局也在短时间成功研发了病毒诊断试剂盒。我们也送给中国诊断试剂盒,能让他们进行2万次的检测。我们能够研发试剂盒是因为中国快速发布了这个病毒的基因组,并提供给全球参考。中国采取一系列有力措施, 积极开展国际合作。中国抗炎早日成功将对世界有所帮助。新加坡和国际社也应该为遏制疫情扩散出一份力。接下来, 我们的科研团队会继续同世界各地的专家加强合作加深对病毒的了解,研发更快速的诊断试剂盒、疫苗、和新药,以及测试新的治疗方案。


在同病毒对抗时,国人必须互相扶持,维持社会凝聚力。我明白,在面对许多未知时,大家难免会感到忧虑。但是,我们绝对不能出现恐慌。有句福建话说 “爱拼才会赢”。在这个非常时期,我们不只要拼,也要 “爱zai才会赢”。首先,我们要懂得如何照顾好自己。养成好习惯,注意个人卫生,从可靠的新闻媒体,获取准确的消息。大家也要负起社会责任。生病了,就要马上看医生。如果有病假,请在家休养,不要到人多的地方。也请大家多多关怀他人,展开实际行动,帮助有需要的群体, 让我国温情满满。所以,我今天很高兴到加冷消防局与前线的民防部队人员和TeamSG运动员交谈。他们无私付出,为抗炎工作出一份力。只要全民万众一心,“新”心相连,我们最终会战胜病毒。