Singapore says UK, Switzerland not even trying to contain coronavirus

Two pedestrians cross the street wearing masks in Piccadilly Circus, London yesterday. (AP pic)

SINGAPORE: The UK and Switzerland are effectively not trying to combat the coronavirus and cases there are likely to surge in the coming weeks, a Singapore minister said.

“One concern we have with cases such as UK and Switzerland isn’t just about the numbers. It is that these countries have abandoned any measure to contain or restrain the virus,” Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said at a press briefing Sunday.

“If there’s no attempt to contain, we estimate the number of cases in these countries to rise significantly in the coming days and weeks.”

Deaths from Covid-19 in the UK doubled to 21 on Saturday, while cases surged 43% to 1,140, an increase the government had not anticipated, reports said.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has been criticised for not following other countries by shutting down schools and banning large gatherings to stop the spread of the disease.

The UK response has instead centred on personal hygiene, self-isolation of those who think they are sick and the tracing and testing of those confirmed to have the disease.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said his country’s strategy was working, and had slowed the virus’s rate of increase. He spoke on Sky News to defend Johnson’s approach as the government prepares to impose further restrictions on everyday activities.

Elsewhere, Switzerland has attempted to curb the virus by closing schools and banning events with more than 100 people until mid-April.

The country’s priority now is to increase testing and encourage citizens to protect themselves, Switzerland’s President Simonetta Sommaruga said in an interview with SonntagsZeitung.

Singapore, by contrast, imposed strict measures on those with a travel history to mainland China and carried out detailed contact tracing on anyone who tested positive.

The island nation revoked the work permit of some foreigners caught at their places of employment during a mandatory leave-of-absence period, and repatriated them.

It gradually added limitations on arrivals from other countries which were badly hit, and on Sunday restricted almost all travel from the Southeast Asian region that it is part of.