SINGAPORE – The annual special meeting of the World Economic Forum will only be held in May if it can be held in a safe manner, Singapore’s Minister of Commerce and Industry said on Friday.
That’s why vaccines, testing, and contact tracing will come into play.
“Our own working assumption at the World Economic Forum is that if we are to hold it in Singapore, we will ensure that it is held in a safe manner so as to have confidence in all attendees, including any Singaporeans who do so, could interact with the overseas delegates” Chan Chun Sing told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia”.
“If for whatever reason it’s not safe, I don’t think we will be able to keep it in Singapore,” the minister said.
The meeting of the world’s political and economic leaders traditionally takes place annually in Davos, Switzerland.
However, this year the meeting is set to take place in the tiny Southeast Asian country due to the coronavirus outbreak in Europe. Reuters reported that the May summit is expected to attract around 1,000 attendees.
WEF President Borge Brende told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble on Sunday that the annual special meeting will meet the “highest standards of health” and that people will be tested upon arrival.
“The safety of our participants will always come first, so we check this daily,” he said.
Singapore has largely managed to keep the virus under control and is in the third phase of its economic reopening.
According to the Ministry of Health, there have been 59,425 confirmed cases and 29 deaths to date. More than 90% of the reported cases involved foreign migrant workers and occurred last year when the country tried to control the outbreaks in dormitories.
As of Thursday, Singapore reported 34 imported cases and no locally transmitted infections.
Chan outlined the steps the country will take in preparation for the event.
Vaccinations for workers, delegates
Singapore is vaccinating staff and workers who will be involved in the WEF meeting to keep them safe from infection and to make sure they don’t transmit the virus, Chan said.
More than 113,000 people in the country have already received the first dose of the vaccine, according to the local health ministry.
In addition, Singapore is working with the WEF to “make sure we … vaccinate as many participants as possible,” said Chan.
Participants who have not been vaccinated may have “a different testing protocol,” he said.
If a participant tests positive during the WEF meeting, Singapore will use technology to identify close ties with the confirmed case, Chan said.
This is done using a phone application or small electronic device that uses bluetooth signals to determine who the infected person may have been exposed to.
“We want to make sure that when cases are found we can quickly isolate them and contact the trace and isolate the cluster instead of ending the event,” he said.
This is the focused approach Singapore has taken in reopening its economy.
The skyline of the central business district of Marina Bay Sands in Singapore on Tuesday, November 3, 2020.
Lauryn Ishak | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Participants will also likely be tested to make sure they are not carrying the virus when they exit the summit.
“Before the [participants] On the way to their onward journey, we want to make sure they have a clean health certificate and that there is no misunderstanding that they caught a virus in Singapore, “said Chan.
He said it is a combination of these factors that gives Singapore confidence that it can safely host the WEF meeting.
Still, he admitted that there are factors that are beyond Singapore’s control, such as the virus situation in the rest of the world.
“We will closely monitor all of these trends and take the necessary contingency measures to ensure the safe conduct of the event,” he said.