Chan Chun Sing Hopes To Progressively Reopen Economy, Now Focused On People’s Health Rather Than Election

After Singapore’s ‘Circuit Breaker’ period was extended till 1 Jun, many frustrated Singaporeans might be wondering if this period of isolation would ever end, or would it keep on getting extended further like Malaysia’s.

Well there’s some light at the end of the tunnel now, as Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing has said that the Government hopes to reopen the economy in one month.

However, we might also need to be prepared for more testing in the community as we seek to guard against future waves of Covid-19 outbreaks.

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Chan Chun Sing hopes for more testing for Singapore population

In an interview with Bloomberg on Thursday (23 Apr), Mr Chan was asked what impact the massive number of infections among foreign workers would have on our industries.

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In his reply, he said that the Government hopes to “progressively reopen the economy” in a month’s time — which seems to indicate a date close to the end of the extended ‘Circuit Breaker’ period on 1 Jun.

However, he also mentioned that would happen with “much more testings” for Singapore’s population and even more safe-distancing measures for us.

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This is what he said in the video,

We hope that In a month’s time, we will be able to progressively reopen the economy with much more testings for the entire population and at the same time to take on additional safe distancing measures.

3 indicators for ending ‘Circuit Breaker’

Mr Chan also outlined 3 indicators for ending the ‘Circuit Breaker’, which the Bloomberg TV host referred to as a “lockdown”:

  1. The number of deaths remains low.
  2. The community spread goes down to as low as a single-digit number of daily cases.
  3. The situation in foreign workers’ dorms gets under control, with the workers getting the quality of care that we should provide for them.

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On the spread in the domestic population, he said it remains steady at about 20 per day.

Too early to say if it can end on 1 Jun

However, when pressed by the Bloomberg host on whether the ‘Circuit Breaker’ can definitively end on 1 Jun, Mr Chan said it’s too early to say.

He added as an explanation that the authorities are looking at the long term, taking calibrated measures not just to take care of the existing situation, but to pre-empt any situations that might crop up.

This is not easy as the nature of the virus is not fully understood.

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He especially highlighted how hidden cases in the community could blindside us if we are unprepared. And even if the first wave has passed, we might see a 2nd or 3rd wave if we aren’t careful.

We think more testing for Singapore’s population would help uncover some of these hidden cases.

Aggressive testing for migrant workers, some delays to construction projects

On the foreign workers in dormitories, Mr Chan said we are already aggressively testing them for the virus even if they’re asymptomatic, as they might still be carriers.

Many of these workers are in the constriction, marine and offshore industries, and they are being isolated to make sure they are healthy before resuming work.

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When ask how bad this situation would be for construction and shipyards, Mr Chan said that there would be some delay to their projects.

But once the Covid-19 crisis subsides, he hopes these projects would pick up speed again and “regain momentum”, he added.

He’s focused on Covid-19, not general election

Bloomberg rounded up the interview by asking what many Singaporeans have on their mind: Will the Government be thinking of holding an election during the pandemic, since South Korea recently held a successful one?

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Mr Chan said the timing of the election is the Prime Minister’s prerogative.

He could only say that the Government’s energy right now is on the Covid-19 crisis.

At this time, his attention primarily is on the health of citizens and migrant workers; making sure they are well taken care of.

He is also focused on the ability of the economy to recover and building “long-term capabilities”.

Never be complacent, never be discouraged

During the interview, Mr Chan did reveal an inspirational overriding principle that he believes in,

Work hard, never be complacent when you’re doing well, when the chips are down, never be discouraged.

To that end, he will focus on taking care of the migrant workers, making sure their jobs are maintained and the economy continues to function.

It’ll be a collective effort, where we concentrate on doing what’s right, he added.

Here’s a Facebook post Mr Chan made on Thursday (23 Apr), where he elaborates on some of the other stuff he talked about during the interview.

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Delicate balancing act

While we share Mr Chan’s hope that 1 Jun will be the absolute end of the ‘Circuit Breaker’ period, we also wish that the measures aren’t lifted too soon that it leaves us vulnerable to more waves of infections.

With the end of the ‘Circuit Breaker’ still seemingly far away, people are obviously frustrated and our economy is in danger. But the alternative – death – is worse.

It’s a delicate balancing act that we believe we are well-positioned to perform, given our propensity to think ahead.

Let’s hope that Mr Chan’s 3 conditions for reopening are fulfilled sooner rather than later.

Featured image adapted from Bloomberg and Facebook.