While Singapore has announced more severe restrictions on movements and social interactions, it is not in "Dorscon red" yet as the Covid-19 situation can still be contained, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said yesterday.
Mr Gan, who co-chairs a multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19, was referring to the highest alert level on the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (Dorscon), which indicates the severity of the coronavirus outbreak here.
Singapore remains in "orange", the second-highest alert level, because the outbreak has not reached an uncontrollable phase and contact tracing is still possible, Mr Gan said, when asked at a media conference about what would constitute "Dorscon red" and a lockdown.
"Under Dorscon red, we would have to expect to see many uncontrollable outbreaks and widespread community transmission, and it would be very difficult to continue to do contact tracing, containment and quarantine. We would have to rely purely on safe distancing," he said.
Singapore is not at that stage yet, and remains "quite a distance from Dorscon red" because it has not yet given up on containment and quarantine, he added.
"We are in fact doing the opposite - we are stepping up our capacity in order for us to do contact tracing, to as far as possible ringfence the transmission to contain it, so as to reduce the number of new cases and unlinked cases gradually," he said.
The Health Ministry's director of medical services, Associate Professor Kenneth Mak, said that while there had been an increase in community transmission compared with a month ago, the Covid-19 situation could still potentially be controlled. "Therefore, we are not making any plans at this stage to move to Dorscon red," said Prof Mak.
Singapore yesterday announced measures to close most workplaces and all schools from next week as part of curbs on all gatherings outside homes.
Responding to whether this constituted a lockdown, task force co-chair and Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said the phrase meant different things to different people.
"So, rather than use the phrase 'lockdown', which means different things to different people, let's focus on the specific measures," he said. "What we are doing is a significant tightening on top of what we had just introduced last week because we think this is necessary."
He pointed out that the Government was "not shutting down the economy", and that essential businesses would continue.
"We are not stopping people from going out if they really need to for work, where it is essential, or to get food, groceries or even to exercise," Mr Wong added.
But he also warned people against gathering outside, saying that enforcement agencies would be watching this closely.
"We call on everyone to cooperate, to work with us and to show in this time of crisis that Singaporeans can be resilient, can be united, and we all can be disciplined in doing what is necessary to protect ourselves and save lives," he said.