Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has announced he will take a week of leave after he shocked a live television audience Sunday, swaying and gripping the podium two hours into his address.
Sweat pouring down his face, the audience gasped as Lee’s expression turned blank and he started to fall.
The Singaporean leader didn’t collapse but had to be helped off the stage in front of a packed auditorium by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, after what Ng described as a “fainting spell.”
Some audience members stood up, concerned, as the cameras cut away from Lee when he abruptly faltered during his annual National Day Rally address at the Institute of Technical Education in Singapore.
Lee’s official social media accounts were quick to deny the Prime Minister had a stroke or a heart attack, saying his condition was “not serious.”
“Prime Minister was feeling unsteady because of prolonged standing, heat and dehydration. His heart is fine and he did not have a stroke,” the account said on Sunday.
But viewers were left hanging in nervous anticipation, after the Prime Minister’s “half-hour break” turned into an hour and then stretched even longer.
“Hope PM Lee is okay,” Singaporean Twitter user @carrinelow tweeted, one of a number of concerned social media users who posted about their anxiety during the long wait.
Eventually, after almost an hour and a half, a smiling Lee returned to the stage to a standing ovation to finish his speech.
“Thank you for waiting for me I gave everybody a scare,” he told the crowd. “Last time I did this I was on the parade square in Safti, I fainted. I think that’s what happened, I’ve never had so many doctors look at me at once.”
On Monday, Lee took to social media again to announce he will take a week off on the advice of his doctors.
“I’m glad to report that the doctors think I am okay, but they have advised me to rest,” he posted to his Facebook page.
Every year Singapore’s Prime Minister gives the National Day Rally speech on the second Sunday after the country’s National Day on August 9.
It is similar to the US President’s State of the Union address.
Lee underwent surgery in February 2015 after being diagnosed with prostate cancer, but the 64-year-old was told two months later he was cancer-free.
Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam wrote on his Facebook Lee had gone for a full check-up. “He’s got real mental strength,” he said.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak took to social media to wish his Singaporean counterpart a swift recovery. “Heard that you’re not feeling well. I hope you’re all right,” he said on his official Twitter account.