Prime Minister Lee Loong Concedes ‘Errors’ In Handling Pandemic

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In spite having one of the world’s lowest coronavirus-related death tolls, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Loong said on Wednesday that the government erred in its handling of the pandemic.

“We must learn from these errors and do better next time”, Lee said, referring to the spread of the novel coronavirus across dozens of dormitories where around 320,000 migrant workers live 10-20 to a room.

Singapore’s Ministry of Health on Wednesday reported that 49 more people had caught the virus, taking total infections since the outbreak began in January to almost 57,000.

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Around 55,000 of the cases were found in the dormitories, mostly among young male workers from neighbouring countries such as Indonesia and India who displayed mild or no symptoms, according to the ministry.

“We knew that communal living in the dorms posed infection risks,” Lee said, speaking in Singapore’s parliament.

Though health authorities “stepped up precautions” in the dorms, and “for a time these seemed adequate,” Lee said that “with hindsight” the government “would have acted aggressively and sooner.”

“We would have recommended everyone wears face masks sooner,” Lee said, likening policy-making in the middle of the pandemic to challenges posed by “the fog of war.”

Twenty-seven people have died in Singapore, a wealthy city-state of almost 5.8 million people, after a positive coronavirus diagnosis.

The government has said it will address migrant workers’ living conditions, but is also discussing tightening rules on hiring non-Singaporeans after a two-month lockdown contributed to the economy contracting a record 13.2 per cent in the second quarter.

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