SINGAPORE - Despite tough times during the Covid-19 pandemic, many Singaporeans have surpassed themselves, whether in caring for others, showing empathy for front-line workers or picking up new skills, said Ms Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information as well as National Development.
This spirit, she added, needs to continue even after the pandemic is over so that Singaporeans can build a warmer and more cohesive society.
Speaking in Mandarin during the debate on the President's Address on Friday (Sept 4), Ms Sim focused on two trends that have emerged during the pandemic.
Second, how Singaporeans have taken the opportunity to develop their talents, such as baking, mask-making and gardening.
Ms Sim said that since the pandemic struck, many people have passed her masks and hand sanitisers, asking her to pass these on to front-line workers such as cleaners, security guards and early childhood educators.
She added that more people have also been donating money and volunteering their time, including giving up their $600 Solidarity Payments to those who need it more.
She said: "Covid-19 has led us to be more appreciative of foreign workers and front-line workers, and we want to express our respect and gratitude towards them."
She added that she hoped Singaporeans who have stepped up to help others during the pandemic will consider doing so in the long run, and continue to donate funds and volunteer their time well after the Covid-19 situation is over.
The care and concern shown towards vulnerable groups, foreign workers and frontline fighters should also continue, she added.
Said Ms Sim: "A post-Covid society should be a warmer and more cohesive society... and I hope that this surpassing of self we've seen will contribute to a more vibrant and independent post-Covid society."
As for Singaporeans who have picked up new skills to help themselves and others, she said she wished for them to continue this trend, and become more self-reliant and sustainable in the post-Covid new normal.
"In a highly commoditised global consumer market, where almost everything can be bought off the shelves... the pandemic has indirectly created a DIY renaissance of home-based skills like baking and sewing," she said.
If this revival can help people achieve a more self-reliant and sustainable life after the pandemic, and encourage people to learn to appreciate and cherish the fruits of other people's labour by doing things themselves, that would be a good thing, she added.
Ms Sim said the pandemic has posed a serious threat to Singapore, but it has also been a huge force of change.
While the Government has been making a push towards digitalisation for some years, the Covid-19 situation has made the use of technology more pervasive.
Many businesses have moved to online platforms to remain competitive, and introduced digital payment methods to reduce contact and stay safe.
"But while the whole country moves towards digitalisation, the most challenging part is how to help the elderly grasp basic digital skills like using a smartphone," said Ms Sim.
The formation of the Singapore Digital Office, recruitment of digital ambassadors and launch of the Seniors Go Digital movement are all part of efforts to help the elderly become more comfortable with technology.
Ms Sim asked to imagine a situation where an elderly woman equipped with digital skills is able to use technology in her daily life - using the Healthy365 app to track how many steps she took that morning, collecting medication at a self-collection locker in her neighbourhood and using PayNow to pay for her groceries.
"Such a way of life is already the regular routine for some digitally-savvy seniors. With the efforts of the Singapore Digital Office and digital ambassadors, I believe more senior citizens can also have a digitalised post-Covid way of life," she added.
And there will definitely come a day when the nation will conquer the Covid-19 virus, but whether life will return to normal, is another matter altogether, she said.
"Not being able to go back to the past may be a pity. But we can definitely grasp the present, and shape the future," she added.