Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said the COVID-19 pandemic is a disaster on a global scale but it is not the deadliest disease that could befall mankind and that lessons learnt during this emergency must be documented for future epidemics.
Lee pointed out that scientists believe ‘Disease X’ could potentially harm mankind on a much greater scale. ‘Disease X’ is a placeholder name adopted by the World Health Organisation in February 2018 to represent unknown pathogens which could cause a much bigger epidemic.
When COVID-19 was first reported, Lee said, many wondered if ‘Disease X’ had arrived. “COVID-19 has been a disaster for the world, but it is not ‘Disease X’,” Loong was quoted as saying by local media on Wednesday.
Loong said Singapore has done well in stabilising the COVID-19 outbreak, but the measures to contain the disease cannot be relaxed. “If we relax these measures now, we will have a resurgence,” he said.
The coronavirus will not be Singapore’s last public health crisis, and the country should apply lessons it has learnt in managing this disease to prepare for future pandemics, the prime minister said.
In the last 17 years, since the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak, the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), swine flu (H1N1) and ebola have all emerged as global threats. While H1N1 was highly transmissible, it was mild. Mers was not easily transmissible, though its mortality was high. Similarly, Ebola was extremely dangerous but it remained confined to African countries.
None of these diseases fit the description of ‘Disease X’.
Meanwhile, Singapore reported 48 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, including two from the community areas and five imported infections. Now the country’s coronavirus tally stands at 56,908, said the Ministry of Health (MOH).
Of the two community cases, one is a permanent Singapore resident (foreigner) and the other is a foreigner on a work pass here, the ministry said.
All the five imported cases are placed on stay-home notice. The rest of the new cases were migrant workers.
Three imported cases, reported on Wednesday, were work pass and work permit holders, who arrived from India and the Philippines on August 21. Both were placed on 14-day stay-home notices.
The number of recovered cases rose to 55,891 after 142 COVID-19 patients were discharged from hospitals and community care facilities on Wednesday.
Of the active cases, 75 patients are admitted in hospitals and 867 are being cared for at community facilities. The coronavirus has claimed 27 lives in Singapore.