Intervention by PM Lee Hsien Loong for the G20 Global Health Summit on 21 May 2021.
Your Excellencies, Prime Minister Mario Draghi and President Ursula von der Leyen, thank you for convening this Global Health Summit. Singapore is honoured to participate in it.
COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on economies and people’s lives everywhere. The world remains in the thick of the pandemic, but this will neither be the last, nor the worst pandemic that we encounter. Sooner or later, something more transmissible or lethal will emerge and hence, we must take every opportunity to learn from this pandemic, to prepare ahead for the next one.
Singapore fully supports the Rome Declaration of principles to strengthen the global health architecture. The Declaration lays out countries’ individual commitments to fight COVID-19. A well-functioning public healthcare system is a critical part of any country’s pandemic response, so we must strengthen our respective healthcare systems nationally and our capabilities, such as testing, contact tracing, and vaccination. Not just putting plans on paper, but also being able to execute them well. For example, organising and carrying out vaccinations is a major administrative and organisational challenge, especially in places where populations are large and dispersed and the government’s reach is limited. Such preparations should be sustained during peacetime to break the vicious cycle of “panic-and-neglect”.
Beyond individual efforts, close international and multilateral cooperation is also essential. The repeated waves of COVID-19 clearly show that no country is safe in a pandemic until everyone else is safe.
Even during difficult times, countries have cooperated to restore supply chains; repatriate citizens stuck overseas; to share tests and medical supplies, and support vaccine multilateralism initiatives like COVAX, so that all countries, especially the least developed ones, would have access to vaccines.
Crucially, international scientific cooperation continued. Doctors and scientists shared information, studying the COVID-19 virus, developing treatments and testing vaccines. This enabled us to improve treatments, and produce effective vaccines in record time, some using new technologies.
Overcoming global pandemics demands a concerted global effort. The WHO has a central role to play, to direct and coordinate international health responses, disease surveillance and preparedness. The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness & Response, has made several recommendations to strengthen the authority and financing of the WHO, so that it can continue to operate impartially. Singapore supports the Panel’s recommendations. Singapore will also do our part to work with all countries to strengthen collective resilience against future pandemics. Singapore is happy to share our experience dealing with COVID-19, and in other areas like urban health emergency preparedness.
I look forward to further discussions on taking the Rome Declaration further, and to the recommendations of the G20 High Level Independent Panel in July. Thank you.
Explore recent content
Explore related topics