Transcript of DPM and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong's Opening Remarks at The Multi-Ministry Taskforce Press Conference on 9 February 202209 Feb 2023
Good morning, we have been fighting the pandemic together for more than 3 years. More recently, we have seen improvements in the global situation. WHO has said that the pandemic is nearing a turning point, signalling that the global COVID emergency may be ending soon. Several countries have taken steps to ease their COVID measures and to treat COVID-19 as an endemic disease.
Within Singapore, our COVID situation has remained stable over the recent months despite increased travel over the year-end holidays, and China’s shift from zero-COVID. Our population has developed a high level of hybrid immunity. So the risk of infections leading to severe illness or deaths is very low, comparable to other endemic respiratory diseases, like influenza.
Having reviewed the situation carefully, we have assessed that it is time to step down the remaining measures in Singapore and establish an endemic COVID new norm.
What does this mean?
First, we will move from DOSCORN Yellow to Green from next Monday onwards.
Second, we will step down the remaining measures. This includes mask wearing in public transport, health protocols 1-2-3, public health measures for migrant workers, the use of TraceTogether and SafeEntry, as well as border measures. In line with these changes, we will also align the financing support for COVID-related treatments and tests with other acute illnesses. My colleagues on the panel will elaborate on these later.
Third, we will stand down the Multi-Ministry Taskforce, and MOH will assume the management of the COVID situation, as it does for other endemic diseases.
These are significant steps we are taking. They mark an endemic COVID new norm for Singapore. But remember that this new normal is not static. The virus will continue to evolve, and we can expect new infection waves from time to time. But unless it is a very dangerous and virulent variant, we will manage these waves with an appropriate level of measures that will allow us to continue to live our lives normally.
In this new normal, there are things we can do to keep ourselves safe: upholding good hygiene practices for example; and while mask wearing is optional, we should continue to uphold the good habit of wearing a mask if you are symptomatic and need to go out; of course, vaccinations and boosters remain very important as our primary defence to live with COVID and Minister Ong Ye Kung will elaborate on this later together with the Director of Medical Services.
We will also continue to keep a close watch on the evolving COVID situation, even when we are in DORSCON Green. So we will continue with our close surveillance of COVID, both internationally and within Singapore. MOH will continue to monitor healthcare capacity. If there is a new and dangerous variant, or if our healthcare capacity becomes strained, then we may have to revise the DORSCON level, reactivate community and border measures, and we may have to reactivate a multi-agency crisis management structure like the MTF.
We hope this will not happen. But we have to be mentally prepared for such an eventuality. If so, we seek everyone’s support to rally together as we have done over the last 3 years.
The government has also reviewed Singapore’s experience with COVID-19 these last 3 years. As we have highlighted before, we are undertaking a comprehensive After-Action Review, to set out what we did right, what we could have done better and how we can better prepare ourselves for the next pandemic. We intend to publish this report when it is ready, and table it in Parliament for a full debate, to make sure we collectively draw the right lessons and act on them.
The journey to this point has not been easy – we have had many ups and downs; we have had to deal with many unexpected curveballs and surprises along the way. But we managed to reach this point together because we all did our part. So I thank all Singaporeans and everyone in Singapore for working together with the Government, and supporting one another through this crisis. Special thanks goes out to our healthcare and frontline workers who worked very hard, going the extra mile to keep all of us safe. A big thank you also to everyone involved in the fight against COVID, including our public servants, our partners in the people and private sectors, as well as unions and workers across all fields, including members of the media; as well as the many unsung heroes who helped us get through the last 3 years.
Thank you all for your labours, hard work and sacrifices. It is because of all of you that we have emerged from this crisis stronger as a nation.
On a personal note: it has been a privilege to serve on the MTF. At the start of the taskforce, I said that serving on this taskforce has given me a front-row seat to see what Singaporeans at their best are capable of. Indeed, I have been humbled by what I have seen over the last three years, and by the resilience and strength of Singaporeans.
It is this indomitable spirit that has got us through this crisis of a generation and it is this same spirit that will enable us to overcome all challenges in the future and secure a better tomorrow.
Thank you. Let me say a few words in mandarin.
DORSCON级别下调到绿色之后, 我们将放宽所有的安全管理措施。例如，不再强制在公共交通上戴口罩。其他的防疫措施也将被调整或取消，包括冠病医疗方案就是Protocol 1-2-3、“合力追踪” 和SafeEntry的使用等等。