SINGAPORE – The government of Singapore announced on Tuesday a special budget allocation of funds worth SG$6.4 billion ($4.59 billion) to deal with the health and economic crisis caused by the outbreak of the new coronavirus.
“When the economy was recovering from the effects of the commercial war, the coronavirus has impacted … tourism, aviation and other sectors,” Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat told the parliament in a session while presenting the 2020 budget.
The funds were added as an additional measure in the budget amid rising alarm over the disease – named COVID-19 by the World Health Organization – after 77 people cases were confirmed in Singapore.
Heng – who also serves as the vice prime minister – highlighted the commercial links between Singapore and China, and listed two economic packages aimed at stabilizing the economy from the impact of the coronavirus and help and protect “businesses, workers and families.”
The funds would also be used to support sectors worst affected by the epidemic, such as tourism, aviation, retail trade and food and transport services.
The minister announced a separate allocation of SG$800 million for activities related to containing the spread of COVID-19.
“We will put in every effort to slow down the spread of the virus,” said Heng, days after the city-state raised the health alert on Feb. 7 after several cases of the disease were found to have spread through local transmission.
Singapore has estimated a decrease of around 30 percent in tourists from China this year, while its flag carrier Singapore Airlines announced on Tuesday that it was reducing flights to international destinations such as London, Los Angeles, Tokyo or Frankfurt as demands have fallen after the coronavirus epidemic.
“We will continue to monitor the situation and make further adjustments as necessary,” the airline said.
The COVID-19 has caused at least 1,873 deaths worldwide until now, with all but five deaths being reported from mainland China, where 72,436 people have been confirmed to be infected, marking more than 99 percent of total cases worldwide.