29 Apr 2009

The Press Conference on Mexican Swine Flu - Key Points Made By DPM and Minister for Home Affairs Wong Kan Seng, 29 April 2009

Thank you for coming. We have arranged this briefing to update you and the public on the measures Singapore has taken and will be taking in dealing with the public health threat caused by the Mexican swine flu. 
Pandemic planning has paid off
  • The Government has been preparing since 2004 in anticipation of a human influenza pandemic. We began by building upon the lessons learnt from the outbreak in 2003 of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS. We now have a Whole-of-Government national crisis management system which involves key Ministers, Permanent Secretaries and Heads of Departments. The key officials meet on a regular basis to identify capacities that we need to build to ensure that we are ready for a pandemic. 

  • Our experience with the SARS outbreak taught us valuable lessons. We cannot treat widespread disease outbreak as a solely medical crisis. Instead, we need a combination of medical and non-medical interventions to deal with a pandemic. Key component plans in Singapore’s national strategy are (a) medical response plan, (b) non-medical support plan (i.e. border control and social distancing), and (c) population support plan (i.e. continuity of essential services). 

  • We have develop very detailed plans and build up capacities to deal with a pandemic.
The public must do its part
  • By the nature of the flu virus, we are not likely to be able to confine any Mexican swine flu cases to isolated clusters, like SARS, when the flu hits us. But if everybody takes precautions – practising good personal hygiene, washing hands, avoiding crowds, seeing the doctor promptly and wearing mask if ill, we can minimise the transmission and the number of cases in Singapore. The public must play its part to exercise social responsibility and take precautions.

  • We will continue to be upfront about the decisions taken, based on the information available at that time.
We cannot plan alone
  • Our ability to effectively respond to a severe pandemic will depend on the extent to which we can get the support and cooperation of private businesses and the public. In this regard, collaboration with the private sector and public is a key component in our plans.

  • We had in the past few years encouraged the private sector to build up on their business continuity plans and for the public sector to hold various exercises to run through the various scenarios. Exercises have been conducted by the financial institutions, as well as critical essential services like water, power, food supply and public transportation.

  • Our schools have been exercising the use of thermometers with their students from time to time. MOE has just announced that a temperature-taking exercise will be carried out in schools later this week to step up readiness against the spread of swine flu.
Update on current situation and measures taken
  • There are currently no known cases of human swine flu in Singapore. Nonetheless, all local medical practitioners and healthcare institutions have been alerted to be vigilant for any suspect cases during this period of the outbreak of human swine flu in the USA and Mexico.

  • Disease surveillance is key. We will continue to closely monitor the outbreaks in Mexico and other countries.

  • The top priority is to protect lives via medical response. Since 25 Apr, MOH has placed all health professionals and healthcare facilities on high vigilance. The healthcare sector has also geared up and are prepared. MOH can tell you more later on this aspect.

  • Other measures we have put in place include border control measures. Thermal scanning has been deployed at the airports. Thermal scanners will also be deployed at the sea checkpoints.
 Going forward
  • For some years now, we have progressively stock-piled Tamiflu for treatment.

  • The Government is taking this threat very seriously and is deploying all its resources across Government to manage the disease and its impact on Singapore, should it surface here. Our responses have been comprehensive and swift. At this point, we should be alert but there is no cause to be unduly alarmed.

  • Given what we have gone through in 2003 during SARS and our preparations since then, the situation today is that we are better prepared than before. We should go about our lives normally. 

  • But everyone must takes precautions - washing hands, avoiding crowds, seeing the doctor promptly and wearing mask when unwell. Then hopefully we can minimise the transmission and the number of cases in Singapore.

  • With the human influenza pandemic, there are many unknowns. It is only through this Whole-of-Singapore approach that we can build a robust, multi-layered defence against pandemic influenza.

  • Despite all the measures we have taken, we must not be complacent. We have seen how fast and far the disease has spread in the last few days. It may also spread to Singapore and we must face up to it, and deal with the problem when it hits us.
Last Updated on 15 Jun 2015
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