Singapore overseas minister says discovering Covid origins requires transparency

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SINGAPORE – It is important to know the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic – but that would not be possible without “radical and complete transparency,” said Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.

“Let me speak as a scientist or as a doctor: what we need is radical and complete transparency. “Balakrishnan told CNBC’s” Squawk Box Asia “on Thursday.

“It is important, the etiology is important, not for political or diplomatic reasons – it is for the future. We need to know how these things happen, where the next outbreak will take place, what the likely dynamics of these future pandemics will be. ” he added.

Balakrishnan was a doctor before entering politics two decades ago. In May, the minister told CNBC that Covid is endemic and will not go away completely – an assessment increasingly shared by governments and health officials around the world.

The virus that caused Covid infections first appeared in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.

An international team of scientists, led by the World Health Organization, said in February that the coronavirus “most likely” came from animals before it spreads to humans. The WHO proposed a second phase of investigation to see if the virus could have escaped from a Chinese laboratory – but China rejected the plan.

In May, President Joe Biden gave US intelligence 90 days to continue investigating the origin of the virus and to report the results. The deadline was Tuesday. China also criticized Biden’s move and accused the US of scapegoating, Reuters reported.

Balakrishnan said it was “in the collective interest of all humanity” to know the origins of the virus.

“I just wish we could take the politics and rivalry between the superpowers out and focus only on science, health and people’s well-being,” the minister said.

Singapore is approaching 80% vaccination rate

Domestically, nearly 80% of Singapore’s 5.69 million residents have been fully vaccinated against Covid – and that has allowed the country to ease social distancing measures and ease border restrictions this month.

However, Balakrishnan said he was “very reluctant” to say the country had turned the tide. He warned that the situation could change and that requires “eternal vigilance”.

“Even at 80%, that’s still a million people without vaccines. And so … as we try to gradually and safely reopen society and reopen our borders, we are going to have quite a struggle to keep the numbers down, ”he said.

Singapore has adjusted social distancing measures several times in recent months as the more transferable Delta variant spreads across the city-state.

As of Wednesday, the Southeast Asian country has reported more than 66,800 Covid infections and 52 deaths, data from the Ministry of Health showed.

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