Business in the time of Corona

Singapore’s business leaders reveal how they responded and how firms are coping with it.

It’s a whole new world out there in 2020, and a whole new Singapore business environment.

The continuing growth and new investments of 2019 are no longer top of mind for most of the city and its economy. That mantle has been taken by the new severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus, which causes the highly dangerous coronavirus disease, or COVID-19. In 2020, Singaporeans have found themselves focussed on facemasks, handwashing, and social distancing as they work to “flatten the curve” of infection across the city-state.

Singapore is handling the pandemic well, at least comparative to many other countries and markets. Still, the country has recently adopted an unprecedented “circuit breaking” set of movement restrictions for the four weeks from 7 April, including the closure of the vast majority of workplaces.

“Instead of tightening incrementally over the next few weeks, we should make a decisive move now to preempt escalating infections,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on 3 April. “We will therefore impose significantly stricter measures (to) help reduce the risk of a big outbreak occurring.”

Businesses across the economy are naturally being caught up in the nationwide response, with the nature of those impacts being wide and varied. Clearly, airlines, hospitality, and retail businesses have each suffered a huge drop in demand as customers choose, or are forced to stay away–and there have been thousands of jobs lost in these sectors. Even the most optimistic forecasts see those numbers growing even further in the months ahead.

Other sectors are facing issues around getting workers to the places they need to be, and ensuring their health and safety in this new regime of avoiding human contact and close interaction. Many technology and office-based businesses have been forced to move to work from home arrangements for the majority of their remaining staff.

Meanwhile, essential service providers, including hospitals and healthcare providers, transport and logistics firms, and even supermarkets are all making do with the resources they have available to them in the best possible way.

View from the top
Singapore Business Review spoke to 18 prominent leaders, from a broad range of sectors operating in the Singapore market. We asked each about how their organisations had fared over the tumultuous first quarter of 2020, and the specific challenges being faced as well as the solutions being developed. Their responses show a strong level of resilience across the business community here.

For some, it has been the chance to test out some business continuity processes developed for this very situation.

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