Temasek CEO says over S$800 mil earmarked for coronavirus fight

Ho Ching says S$250 mil will fund Covid-related ‘therapeutics and vaccines’ R&D. (Facebook pic/HO Ching)

SINGAPORE: Singapore’s Temasek Holdings Pte plans to spend more than S$800 million on efforts to combat the spread of Covid-19, according to Chief Executive Officer Ho Ching.

In a Facebook post last week, Ho, who is also the wife of Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, said the board of Temasek last month approved S$500 million of its community fund to be redirected toward coronavirus response efforts, on top of the S$50 million set aside in February.

In addition, S$250 million of the S$1 billion earmarked to fund R&D efforts around Temasek’s long-term investment themes has been directed to Covid-related “therapeutics and vaccines research and development,” she said.

Singapore is preparing to roll out mass testing for its 5.7 million-strong population.

While the city-state was lauded in the early days of the pandemic for using contact tracing to identify people deemed likely to have been infected, persistent outbreaks in foreign-worker dorms and the broader population have resulted in a continued lock down and mandatory mask wearing.

“We would probably prioritise those working in the essential services first before expanding to the public,” Ho said, referring to mass testing.

In another Facebook post on Sunday, she called upon manufacturers selling blood prick antibody tests to provide more performance data.

Ho also said work was being done with private hospitals in Singapore to test people who don’t meet the current criteria in exchange for a fee that would be refunded if their results came back positive.

“We probably can do this at scale starting mid to end May,” she said.

The virus has taken a substantial toll on the value of Temasek’s net assets, with public and private company valuations tumbling in recent months. The state investment firm is also backstopping a multibillion-dollar capital raising for Singapore Airlines Ltd.