Singapore’s migrant workers bear brunt of Covid-19 spike – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday lauded foreign workers who have borne the brunt of a surge of cases of Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus. Lee said Singapore is “grateful” for the efforts of the workers – who hail from less wealthy Asian neighbours such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines and Myanmar – for helping to build much of the city-state’s infrastructure, according to Lee. “Some man midnight shifts in our factories. Others take care of our sick and elderly in hospitals and nursing homes. Hundreds of thousands of Singapore households depend on domestic workers from neighbouring countries,” Lee said.

Migrant workers suffer as Malaysia and Singapore combat Covid-19 – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — The wealthiest and third-wealthiest countries in South-East Asia, Singapore and Malaysia respectively, depend on millions of immigrants to fill low-wage jobs in agriculture, construction, domestic help and restaurants. This critical but often neglected section of society – nearly one and a half million people in Singapore and perhaps twice as many in Malaysia – has been thrust into the spotlight by the coronavirus pandemic. The past two weeks have seen a surge in Covid-19 cases across 43 government-sanctioned dormitories that house around 200,000 of Singapore’s migrant workers. Of Singapore’s record 386 new cases announced on Monday night, the “majority are Work Permit holders in the dormitories,” according to the Ministry of Health. Altogether around a third of the city-state’s 2,918 cases have been linked to the residences, where workers from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal and elsewhere often sleep 10-20 to a room. 

Days after lockdown starts, Singapore’s coronavirus cases top 2,000 – dpa international

dpa

KUALA LUMPUR — Singapore’s Ministry of Health announced on Friday that 198 new cases of coronavirus had been diagnosed over the past 24 hours, taking the country’s caseload to 2,108. A month ago Singapore had reported only 166 cases, numbers that meant despite its small size and high affluence, it was lauded as a disease-control exemplar.  Meticulous contact-tracing and widespread testing appeared to keep infection numbers low. Over 20,000 people have been quarantined, while schools and most businesses were open as recently as Tuesday, weeks after much of the outside world went into lockdown.  However as infection numbers rose beyond the 1,000-mark last week and health ministry officials found it increasingly difficult to source the origins of new infections, the government succumbed, announcing a month-long lockdown to try curb the spread of the virus. The restrictions were introduced on Tuesday and were branded a “circuit breaker.”

Malaysia’s virus tally passes 4,000 but recoveries top new cases – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — For the second day this week, Malaysia’s reported recoveries from the new coronavirus have exceeded the number of new cases. The Ministry of Health announced on Wednesday evening that 166 coronavirus patients had been discharged from hospital over the 24 hours up to noon the same day. The ministry stated that 156 new cases of Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, were diagnosed over the same period. Wednesday’s new recoveries take the total to 1,487 out of 4,119 cases confirmed since the first was announced on January 25. 236 recoveries were announced on Monday, which was a daily record. However Wednesday’s new cases mean Malaysia is the the first country in South-east Asia to report more than 4,000 coronavrus infections. Testing rates are lower in neighbouring countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines, both of which have much bigger populations than Malaysia.

Singapore ups fiscal spend for a third time, aims soften economic impact of Covid-19 – dpa international

Singapore skyline over Marina Bay (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — In a televised speech to parliament on Monday afternoon, Singapore Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced a “solidarity budget” that will take government spending aimed at curbing the impact of coronavirus to over 40 billion dollars. Heng said the outlay aims “to save jobs and protect livelihoods of people” during an effective lockdown due to start tomorrow. All Singaporean adults are to receive a one-off handout worth 421 dollars (600 Singapore dollars) while some business levies will be waived or reduced. Monday marks the third time in six weeks that Heng has introduced extra fiscal measures to counter the economic devastation wrought by Covid-19, the potentially fatal respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Despite economic risk, Singapore lockdown looms after Covid-19 surge – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — Announcing an effective lockdown that will run for a month from April 7, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told Singaporeans on Friday afternoon that the country needs to “make a decisive move now” to stop the coronavirus. “We will close most workplaces except for essential services,” Lee said, touting the move as a “circuit breaker” aimed at interrupting a startling jump in infections over the past week. Singapore has seen the number of cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, rise to 1,114. Five people have died, the latest fatality announced on Friday morning. Most of this week’s diagnoses have been described by the Health Ministry as “local,” after a period of weeks when most of the new cases originated in homebound Singaporeans and were labelled “imported.” “For half of these [new] cases we don’t know where or from whom they caught the virus,” Lee said

Biggest daily jump sees coronavirus cases in Singapore hit 1,000 – dpa international

The Diabetes and Metabolism Center at Singapore General Hospital (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Singapore’s Health Ministry on Wednesday night confirmed 74 new cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, representing the biggest one-day increase since the outbreak began. The city-state’s total caseload has now reached 1,000. Fifty-four of the newly-confirmed diagnoses were described by the ministry as “local.” The resurgence in cases with no recent overseas travel history reverses a trend of “imported” cases – mostly homebound Singaporeans.  “Our focus now has to be on our locally transmitted cases, especially the cases that are still popping up,” said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong. 

Singaporean activist jailed for a week for questioning judges – dpa international

dpa

KUALA LUMPUR — A critic of the Singaporean government is being jailed for one week starting Tuesday for “scandalizing the judiciary” with a Facebook post that queried whether the courts operate independently of the government. “I do not recognise the legitimacy of the judgment and the law, both of which are unjust,” Jolovan Wham, a prominent social activist, said on Facebook on Tuesday, before surrendering to police to serve the sentence rather than pay a fine of 3,510 dollars (5,000 Singapore dollars) fine. Restrictions against criticising the courts have remained in place in Singapore since British colonial rule, along with significant curbs on freedom of speech.

Singapore to spend 38 billion dollars as pandemic pummels economy – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — Singapore’s Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat proposes spending up to 55 billion Singapore dollars (38 billion US dollars) to cushion the wealthy city-state against a looming recession triggered by coronavirus. “As an open economy, we will be deeply impacted by these global shocks,” Heng, who doubles up as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s deputy, told parliament on Thursday afternoon. Announcing what he termed a “resilience budget,” Heng projected that Singapore could spend up to 11 per cent of its gross domestic product to counter what he said could be “a recession at least as bad as the global financial crisis.” Singapore, which has the world’s fourth-highest GDP per capita according to International Monetary Fund (IMF) rankings, will spend over 11 billion dollars of its estimated hundreds of billions of dollars in reserves, Heng said. 

Singapore ramps up virus testing and tracing, cautions pubs ahead of shutdown – dpa international

Mount Elizabeth Medical Center in Singapore, destination for medical tourists from around Asia (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Police will patrol Singapore’s bars and nightclubs staging “farewell” events on Wednesday night, ahead of a government-enforced shutdown due to coronavirus. A joint statement on Wednesday by Singapore’s police, Tourism Ministry and enterprise board warned that attendance must be limited to 250 people. Organizers must “reduce mingling amongst participants” by keeping people “at least a metre” apart, the statement read, as Singaporeans took to social media to accuse the various venues of irresponsibility and recklessness. After a recent jump of Covid-19 cases, the lung disease caused by the new coronavirus, Singapore announced on Tuesday that “entertainment venues” such as bars, cinemas, discos and theatres would have to close from March 26 until April 30.