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Singapore has to 'move cautiously' in exiting COVID-19 'circuit breaker': Minister


Press Trust of India Singapore
Singapore has to "move cautiously" in exiting its COVID-19 "circuit breaker" period from June 2 as there are still "hidden cases" of infection circulating among the general population, a senior minister said on Monday.
National Development Minister Lawrence Wong made the remarks while citing the example of eight pre-school staff members who tested positive for the virus after a mass testing exercise.
As part of a proactive testing programme that began on May 15, all teaching and non-teaching staff at pre-schools will be swabbed before centres reopen in phases from next week.
"The fact is that there are still hidden cases circulating amongst the general population," Wong said in a Facebook post.
"There are bound to be other undetected asymptomatic cases in the community. That's why we have to move cautiously, the Channel News Asia quoted the minister as saying.
This means that not everything can reopen at the same time, and tough decisions have to be made on which ones go first," he added.
Authorities had last week announced that Singapore's COVID-19 restrictions, termed "circuit breaker", would be lifted in three phases from June 2.
The "circuit breaker" measures were first announced on April 7 and were further tightened after three weeks, with more workplaces closed and social gatherings banned.
Wong expects COVID-19 cases to rise when economic activities resume.
All the countries that have beaten the virus to low levels have seen a rebound in cases when they resumed activities - more when they resumed precipitously; less when they proceeded cautiously, Wong wrote in the Facebook post.
Noting that some have been disappointed by the government's cautious approach, Wong explained that a phased reopening will allow authorities to have a better control of the overall situation.
"If we permit physiotherapy, should we also allow spas and massage centres? We would have liked to say 'yes' to all the requests. But each time we ease up on something, we introduce many more face-to-face contacts and people movement within the community. That in turn means higher transmission risks and the likelihood of more infections," he said.
"We are prioritising both lives and livelihoods. I hope you appreciate and understand that we are trying our best to resume activities safely for Singaporeans, while keeping infection rates low," the minister said.
Wong said that authorities will continue with its proactive testing of different segments of the population.
If all goes well, Singapore will be able to move to Phase 2 around the end of June, he added.
Singapore reported 344 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, taking the country's tally to 31,960.

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First Published: May 25 2020 | 7:23 PM IST

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