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Intervention by Health Minister Ong Ye Kung at G20 Health Ministers’ Meeting Session 1

Monitoring the Global Health Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic, with a Detailed Assessment of its Consequences in Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

1      I want to first thank his Excellency, Dr Roberto Speranza for hosting us in this magnificent city of Rome.

2      I think, never before have we come to a meeting with all of us having gone through such common experiences, having a common sense of threat, and needing to respond as a global community.

3      I think the experiences of different countries when dealing with COVID-19 fall into the following categories:

a. One group went through tremendous widespread transmission, very high casualties.

b. But fortunately, vaccines came on-stream and people, having seen deaths and the devastating effect of COVID-19, took the vaccines and achieved high level of vaccination rates.

c. We see many of these countries emerging with newfound freedoms. 

d. And then there is another group of countries that are mostly in Asia. These countries that kept their borders tight, almost cut themselves from the rest of the world, imposed very tight social restrictions to suppress and almost eradicate the virus.

e. But when Delta came around, the virus became harder and harder to eradicate.

f. These countries also started vaccination. But having not gone through widespread transmission and deaths, people were more hesitant. I think eventually these countries will also reach a high level of vaccination rate, but it is not as easy.

4      Singapore too has our fair share of challenges.

a. We did not have high casualties; our current death toll is 55 and when we call upon our people to take vaccination there was very good take-up.

b. Right now it is about 81% for total population, and about 90% for total eligible population. 

c. But our main challenge was persuading the people who needed vaccines the most to get vaccinated, namely the seniors.

d. For the seniors above 70, we used to have only 60 to 70% vaccinated.

e. With a lot of hard work, they are now at 88%.

f. And therein we realised our weakness. Our weakness was our primary care system. To get the most vulnerable members of our society to get vaccinated, you need a strong primary care system to persuade them.

g. So when we think about other countries, the problem will be multi-fold.

5      So we do need a strong international system to build up the healthcare response for the next pandemic and urgently get going the reforms recommended by the G20 High Level Independent Panel to strengthen multilateralism in healthcare. 

a. And this will strengthen the support for the WHO to play its key role at the centre of global health security.

6      This is a golden opportunity for us to make a change, to build a new global commons fit for our time. Thank you.

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