Singapore closes schools after new wave of coronavirus cases

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Singapore must close schools and all but the most essential workplaces for a month in a series of tougher measures to limit a second wave of coronavirus cases.

The city-state of 5.7 million inhabitants has been presented as a model for the rest of the world after successfully fighting the virus in the first months of this year thanks to aggressive test measures and intensive tracing. carriers.

But it has struggled to prevent a new wave of coronavirus cases, many of which have been imported by international arrivals from virus hotspots in Europe and the United States.

This week, infections exceeded 1,000 and Friday, a fifth death was reported.

In a speech to his citizens, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said, “We have decided that instead of gradually tightening over the next few weeks, we should make a decisive decision now, to prevent the escalation of infections.”

Food establishments, markets and supermarkets, clinics, hospitals, utilities, transportation and major banking services will remain open.

However, schools and universities will move to full home learning, and Lee urged his citizens to stay at home as much as possible and avoid socializing beyond their families.

“If we don’t go out, if we avoid contact with others, the virus will not be able to spread. It’s as simple as that, “he said.

The state of Southeast Asia had so far maintained a relative sense of normalcy after adopting social distancing measures alongside sophisticated technology to repel the virus.

The resurgence of cases has raised new concerns about the difficulties of maintaining long-term containment measures.

Lee assured Singaporean citizens that food supplies will not run out and promised an announcement early next week regarding further stimulus measures to boost the economy.

The new stringent restrictions are designed as a form of “circuit breaker” after a sharp increase in cases in March, particularly in household infections whose origins cannot be traced.

Lawrence Wong, Minister of National Development, who co-chairs a task force to combat the virus, called the increase in the number of local and unrelated coronavirus cases “very, very disturbing trends.”

He said the government would be ready to cancel the restrictions by the end of April if the guidelines successfully removed the virus.

“If there is poor compliance, poor implementation, then we must be ready to continue these measures,” said Wong. “Let’s get down and fight the virus together. “

The new measures come after warnings in other Asian countries that early relaxation of social distancing rules could allow the floodgates to open on new Covid-19 cases.

Thailand, which has reported 1,978 cases and 19 deaths, has just applied a six-hour curfew to control the spread of the virus and has warned that anyone who breaks the order is sentenced to two years in prison .

The curfew runs from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. and prohibits everyone from leaving their homes, except essential service workers.

Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe faces calls to declare a state of emergency, which in turn would put pressure on companies to apply social distancing rules and allow work home.

Japan has so far been spared the sudden surge seen in parts of Europe, the United States and elsewhere. To date, there have been nearly 3,000 cases and 73 deaths.

Yuriko Koike, the governor of Tokyo, said that Japan declaring a national coronavirus emergency would send a “strong message” that could help dodge an explosive epidemic.

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