The outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome in 2003 provided Singapore with a “manual” for combating the Covid-19 pandemic, the city-state leader said.
The pandemic had relatively no impact on the Southeast Asian country, with only 31 deaths and 60,000 cases among its population of 5.8 million.
The health ministry announced 48 new cases over the weekend – 28 on Sunday and 20 on Saturday, 17 of them through community transfers. There are 31 imported cases.
The disease quickly spread to migrant student dormitories last year, leading to a stalemate in industry and services.
However, the economy shrank by 5.4 percent in 2020, and gross domestic product is unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels until the second half of this year at the earliest, according to government forecasts.
“Sars was less contagious than Covid-19, but more deadly,” said Lee Hsien Loong, the prime minister.
Singapore was one of the first countries to be hit by Sars. “At first no one knew what the new disease was or how long the outbreak would last.”
Lee said the government “did not have a manual to address such a crisis”.
He praised then-Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, who, he said, “organized the maximum national response to stop the spread”.
Goh organized temperature measurements, searching for contacts, quarantining contacts and checking protocols at borders and in public spaces, as well as mobilizing hospitals and closing schools.
“They were all part of a strategy to‘ discover, isolate and retain ’,” Lee said.
Goh gathered the nation behind him, he added.
“He wrote a personal letter to every Singaporean, he calmly and clearly explained to the Singaporeans the situation we have to do, individually and together. People understood what it was about, they took hearts and played their part to win the fight. “
Lee spoke at the presentation of Goh’s biography, Standing high, Peh Shing Huei, editor of the Straits Times.
When Covid-19 hit Singapore 17 years later, “we were better prepared,” he said.
“We adjusted the measures that helped us in Sars, but Covid-19 is a new and different disease and it required fresh thinking and answers from us.”