15 May 2020
Singapore has managed to curb infections and kept fatality rate low. But the threat is far from over. No country as open as Singapore can be safe if infections rage around us. A country with Singapore’s population density is particularly vulnerable. Having suffered SARS in 2003, we are better prepared for this pandemic. We do a lot of testing. We started developing test kits once China made the Covid-19 genome public in early January. We also try to contain, delay and distance. Old-fashioned contact tracing worked for us. Above all, it is the cooperation of citizens and residents that has helped to keep the situation under control, by avoiding unnecessary travel, taking the usual hygiene precaution, and most importantly being socially responsible not to infect others if they think they are unwell. It makes a big difference that there is trust between the state and the people. They work with and not against the government in fighting the virus.
Thanks to past budget surpluses and sound investment by our sovereign wealth funds, we could put health first while trying to save the economy. The Singapore government has announced fiscal spending of S$55 billion (about R700 billion) or 11% of GDP aimed at those most affected by the pandemic. Singapore has also contributed to the WHO Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan and shared scientific knowledge on fighting Covid-19. We are working with like-minded countries to keep supply chains open.
In my heart, I know that South Africa will get to the other side stronger. There is decisive leadership. It took courage to lock down so early even before the first death emerged. South Africans, from political parties to unions, from NGOs to churches, from business to media, have overwhelmingly rallied behind the government, for a change. People and government are coming up with indigenous and innovative solutions. They are not waiting or counting on others for help. This augurs well for South Africa beyond Covid-19. It will show the world once again that South Africa and Africans have the mettle to be a leading democracy in deed by turning crisis into a cause to celebrate.
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