Sim Ann: Concern for others should continue after pandemic

She hopes trend of learning new skills will also carry on, for greater self-reliance

Former Nominated MP Anthea Ong giving self-care kits to migrant workers in July. The pandemic has led Singaporeans to be more appreciative of foreign and front-line workers, says Senior Minister of State Sim Ann. ST PHOTO: SHINTARO TAY
Former Nominated MP Anthea Ong giving self-care kits to migrant workers in July. The pandemic has led Singaporeans to be more appreciative of foreign and front-line workers, says Senior Minister of State Sim Ann. ST PHOTO: SHINTARO TAY
Former Nominated MP Anthea Ong giving self-care kits to migrant workers in July. The pandemic has led Singaporeans to be more appreciative of foreign and front-line workers, says Senior Minister of State Sim Ann. ST PHOTO: SHINTARO TAY
MS SIM ANN.

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, and National Development.

This spirit, she added, should continue even after the pandemic so that Singaporeans can build a warmer and more cohesive society.

Speaking in Mandarin during the debate on the President's Address yesterday, Ms Sim focused on two trends that have emerged during the pandemic.

First, a greater appreciation among Singaporeans for foreign workers and those working on the front lines. Second, how Singaporeans have taken the opportunity to develop their talents, such as baking, mask making and gardening.

Ms Sim said since the pandemic struck, many people have given her masks and hand sanitiser to pass 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 would 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 front-line 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 the trend to continue as well.

 
 
 

"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 appreciate and cherish the fruits of other people's labour, 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 to 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 the launch of the Seniors Go Digital movement are all part of efforts to help seniors become more comfortable with technology.

 
 

Ms Sim asked Parliament to imagine a situation where an elderly woman equipped with digital skills is able to use technology in her daily life, for instance, 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.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2020, with the headline 'Sim Ann: Concern for others should continue after pandemic'. Print Edition | Subscribe