SINGAPORE - The health of Singapore's founding leader Lee Kuan Yew has "worsened" due to an infection after nearly six weeks in hospital, the government said Tuesday.
The 91-year-old former prime minister - widely credited with transforming Singapore from an economic backwater to one of Asia's wealthiest economies in just over three decades - has been in Singapore General Hospital since February 5, on life support at the intensive care unit and receiving treatment for severe pneumonia.
"Mr Lee Kuan Yew's condition has worsened due to an infection. He is on antibiotics. The doctors are closely monitoring his condition," said a statement from the office of his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
The government said on February 21 that Lee was stable but breathing with the help of "mechanical ventilation", a form of life support.
He served as prime minister from 1959, when Singapore gained self-rule from colonial ruler Britain, until he stepped down in 1990 in favour of his deputy Goh Chok Tong, who in turn handed the reins to Lee Hsien Loong in 2004.
The People's Action Party (PAP), which was co-founded by the elder Lee, has been returned to power in every election since 1959 and currently holds 80 of the 87 seats in parliament.
In a book published in 2013, the Asian statesman said he feels weaker by the day and wants a quick death.
The longtime fitness buff has visibly slowed since his wife of 63 years Kwa Geok Choo died in 2010.
His last high-profile public appearance was in November, when he received a standing ovation at the 60th anniversary of the founding of the PAP.
He is still an MP for the port district of Tanjong Pagar but retired from advisory roles in government in 2011.
He held the special cabinet positions of senior minister and later "minister mentor" after stepping down as premier in 1990.
Despite being largely out of the public eye in recent years, Lee remains revered by many Singaporeans.
Many took to social media in recent weeks to voice messages of support following news of his ill health.
On February 25, government officials and state-linked media were forced to quash late-night rumours that he had died.
In a Facebook post on March 13, Lee Hsien Loong said "my family and I are deeply touched" by Singaporeans' messages of support for his father.
Some had sent the elder Lee paintings and cards with messages of support.
"We've arranged the cards in his office, to welcome him back when he's better," the younger Lee said.
Lee Hsien Loong, 63, was himself discharged from hospital on February 18 after undergoing surgery for prostate cancer and his doctor has said he should make a full recovery.