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OPENING ADDRESS BY MR MASAGOS ZULKIFLI, MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER RESOURCES, AT THE OPENING CEREMONY OF THE ASEAN DENGUE DAY WORKSHOP, 7 JUNE 2018

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning

Introduction

 1. It is my pleasure to welcome you to the ASEAN Dengue Day Workshop. Today’s gathering of global policymakers and scientific and public health professionals is a strong demonstration of our collective commitment to fight dengue and other mosquito-borne diseases.

Impact of Climate Change on Dengue

2. A recent World Health Organization report gives a sobering estimate of 390 million dengue infections a year. The report assessed that 3.9 billion people, in 128 countries, are at risk of dengue infection. Here in South-east Asia, dengue is
endemic in all ASEAN countries. It is worrying that dengue has even spread north- and southwards to temperate zones. In the last 15 years, there have been uncharacteristic dengue outbreaks in Nepal, Guangzhou, Yunan, as well as Japan.

3. With global warming, we can expect the dengue situation to worsen. Higher temperatures mean more conducive conditions for the proliferation of the mosquito vector across larger land areas, and faster replication of the virus in mosquitoes. Moreover, Singapore’s position as a global hub heightens the risk of cross-border importation of other mosquito-borne diseases such zika, chikugunya, yellow fever as well as unknown diseases that may yet emerge in future.

Critical to Maintain Comprehensive Mosquito Control Strategy

4. Hence, Singapore is determined to stay vigilant, and persevere with our holistic and rigorous vector control strategy. This comprises 4 key thrusts

a. First, effective surveillance;

b. Second, sustainable prevention and control to keep the mosquito population low;

c. Third, swift and robust outbreak management to break disease transmission; and

d. Last but not least, effective communication and outreach so that all stakeholders - every household, every building owner – take responsibility to prevent mosquito breeding.

5. With the strong involvement of the public and all stakeholders, Singapore has been successful in achieving a low incidence of dengue and other mosquito-borne diseases, despite the challenges of our dense tropical urban setting. But we cannot be complacent. This is a never-ending war – a war where old enemies like dengue will gain strength with global warming, and where new enemies – new diseases – will continually emerge.

New Weapons to Fight Dengue

6. To keep winning this war, we must innovate, invest in new technology, and collaborate and share knowledge. We must keep the public continually alert to eliminate breeding ground all year round for the sake of their loved ones. Public campaigns on dengue prevention and vector control will be part of our lives as long as there is no effective vaccination against dengue.

7. On the vector control front, Singapore is studying the Wolbachia technology as one of the new tools against Aedes-borne diseases. The National Environment Agency completed the Phase 1 field study of the Wolbachia technology last year. We have since commenced a Phase 2 study to further improve our release methodologies and tactics.

8. We are heartened to have international experts gathered here today to share your knowledge and expertise – the scientific advancements, the success stories, and the challenges faced in different ecological settings. We hope that this workshop
will promote collaboration and accelerate the development of effective techniques and technologies that will benefit the world.

9. We are also thankful to the many partners and advisors who have assisted in Singapore’s effort to control dengue. Professor Duane Gubler, our keynote speaker today, has been helping Singapore with his wealth of knowledge on mosquito-borne diseases, since 1972. IAEA, with its experience in the use of sterile insects for agriculture, has also given much support to Singapore and to many of us in this meeting, to accelerate our research on new mosquito control tools.

Year of Climate Action

10. Taking a step back, it is important to recognise that efforts to combat global warming will also translate to better control of dengue and other mosquito-borne diseases. In Singapore, other than the impact on mosquito-borne diseases, climate
change poses significant challenges for us as an island city state. That is why Singapore declared 2018 as the Year of Climate Action– to raise public awareness of climate change and to call on individuals, households and industry to take climate action together.

Conclusion

11. Let me conclude by thanking all of you who have collaborated with us in our fight against mosquito-borne diseases. As temperatures climb around the globe, there is even greater urgency to step up our efforts to curb the spread of these
diseases, and combat climate change. Let us strengthen existing partnerships and forge new ones, as we work closely together to advance our common cause.

Thank you.

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