Crowds gathered at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and social media was abuzz on Wednesday (18th March) night after news broke that former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew was critically ill. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said in a statement that the health of Lee, who is in SGH’s intensive care unit, had deteriorated further.
The update prompted a flurry of condolences and activity online.
Last night, screenshots were circulated of a fake website bearing the PMO logo and announcing Lee’s death. The hoax led some foreign outlets, including CNN, China’s CCTV, Sina, and Phoenix Chinese News to report that Lee had died, only to retract the reports later. CNN Breaking News’ Twitter account posted up the following (now removed) tweets shortly after 10pm last night:
While Sina and Phoenix issued apologies for their errors, CNN Breaking News (which has over 25 million Twitter followers) didn’t. Shortly after, the PMO said it’s lodging a police report about the hoax site and added that no new information had been released about his condition since the afternoon.
Meanwhile, 91-year-old Lee Kuan Yew was visited yesterday by family members and relatives, including his eldest child, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, 63, and grandson Lee Yipeng, 32. The Singapore General Hospital (SGH) hospital lobby was crowded with journalists, some flying in from around the region, including those from Japan’s NHK TV and the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper as well as Phoenix Chinese News.
The media scrum drew many onlookers.
Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first and founding Prime Minister, has been in hospital with severe pneumonia since 5th February. His worsening health was first announced on Tuesday (17th March) when the PMO said he had an infection and was being treated with antibiotics. It said doctors were monitoring his condition. Lee Kuan Yew was also reported to be sedated and on a ventilator in SGH’s intensive care unit (ICU).
Online, there was an outpouring of good wishes for modern Singapore’s founding prime minister to get well soon, including from ministers and MPs. Lee Hsien Loong’s Facebook update on his father’s health drew almost 4,000 shares and 3,000 comments within hours:
Our thoughts and prayers are with Lee Kuan Yew, his family, and his loved ones during this difficult time.