Diplomat Chan Heng Chee says Covid-19 numbers high as S'pore 'tests aggressively'

She said moving workers out of dorms earlier would have made little difference.

Julia Yeo| April 24, 10:33 PM

Ambassador-at-large Chan Heng Chee said in an interview that Singapore's high Covid-19 numbers relative to the region was due to the difference in testing capabilities, and that Singapore was testing aggressively for the virus.

Said that Singapore knew foreign workers would be a stress point

Speaking in an interview with CNBC, Chan said that Singapore "knew that the foreign workers would be a stress point".

She added that when the first Covid-19 case involving a foreign worker was found on Feb. 8, 2020, "no one in the world knew about asymptomatic cases".

"On April 3, there were just 36 cases amongst the foreign workers. We did what we always do — we test, we track, and we quarantined them, but later it just exploded," Chan told CNBC.

Moving out of dormitories earlier would not have made big difference

Chan said that Singapore could have moved the foreign workers out of the dormitories earlier, but opined that it would have hardly made a difference in transmission.

"(The foreign workers) would be going to work, they would be cooking together in communal activities, and they would be going to the mall," Chan said.

She told CNBC that the Singapore government had reacted "very decisively", providing medical attention to every worker, giving them food, entertainment, and WiFi access.

"More importantly, we are telling them that they will keep their jobs and they will be paid," Chan added.

The more you test, the more numbers you have

She also told CNBC that Singapore was experiencing a surge in Covid-19 cases as the government was testing "aggressively and transparently".

"The more you test, the more numbers you have," Chan said.

"In the region, you find that testing capabilities are different, so our numbers look much higher than others."

She also added that Singapore had the densest population in the world, with the exception of Monaco, and dense cities have a problem dealing with epidemics and pandemics.

Put into context

Chan added that she wanted to put the numbers "into context".

"Bear in mind you have 11,000 people in Singapore who are confirmed infected, but 26 are in critical condition, 1,300 or so are in hospital, stable and improving," she said.

Chan said that another 8,800 mild cases are currently in isolation centres, and added: "So the numbers don’t look as grim as all that."

Top image via MOM, Institute of Policy Studies