Being Prepared for a Pandemic

Learn more about how Singapore is prepared to prevent & respond to disease outbreaks.

09 Apr 2024
A pandemic is a disease outbreak that occurs over a large geographic area and affects a significantly high proportion of the population. 

Since the early 2000s, Singapore has experienced three pandemics:
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003;
  • H1N1 influenza in 2009; and
  • Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in 2020.
As an international travel hub with a high population density, Singapore is particularly vulnerable to the importation and local transmission of new infectious diseases and the re-emergence of established ones. Climate change and human activities such as rapid, unplanned urbanization may also increase the risk of transmission of diseases from animals to human beings. Pandemics will therefore occur again in the future.

Being prepared for a pandemic is important as it would help reduce the spread of infectious diseases and reduce illness and deaths, minimize the impact on our healthcare systems, and mitigate the social and economic disruptions caused by disease outbreaks. Enhancing pandemic preparedness and response is an ongoing effort and remains a crucial national priority. 

Just as how COVID-19 was different from SARS, future pandemics will differ from what we currently know or have experienced before. Therefore, the approach to pandemic preparedness and response should be dynamic and flexible enough to cover known and unknown disease threats, collectively labelled as “Disease X” due to the uncertainty.

Building on lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic, we have taken steps to fortify our readiness against future infectious disease outbreaks, which include:
  • The Infectious Diseases Act (IDA), our primary legislation for the prevention and control of infectious diseases in Singapore, has been amended in 2024 to account for a wider range of public health scenarios and to support more flexible public health responses in outbreaks and epidemics;
  • Establishing a new communicable diseases agency (CDA) to bring together and enhance public health functions required to prevent, detect and respond to future outbreaks and pandemics;
  • Enhancing healthcare delivery to accommodate increased patient loads and ensure continuity of care during disease outbreaks;
  • Training and sustaining a Healthcare Reserve Force, made up of former healthcare workers and volunteers, to reinforce healthcare manpower during a healthcare crisis;
  • The Programme for Research in Epidemic Preparedness and Response (PREPARE), set up in 2022 to strengthen Singapore’s pandemic research capabilities for developing tools, methods and products to respond to future disease threats;
  • Maintaining regular and open government communications to provide prompt and accurate information, share decisions, manage public sentiments and build community readiness; and
  • Collaborating with international partners such as the World Health Organization, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as well as governments and key institutions through regular exchange of information and sharing of good practices, addressing challenges and harnessing opportunities, to strengthen collective resilience against future pandemics.
In learning from our past experiences and building back better, Singapore would be in a stronger position to face future disease outbreaks and pandemics together.