Cohesion among Singaporeans key in next phase of fight against Covid-19, ministers say

Participants at the virtual Spring Reception 2021, jointly organised by the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre and the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations, sharing Chinese New Year greetings on Feb 14, 2021. PHOTO: SCCC

SINGAPORE - Singapore has made significant progress in the battle against Covid-19 by rallying together and staying disciplined, and this cohesiveness will be key in the next phase of tackling the virus, two ministers said on Sunday (Feb 15).

Speaking at a virtual event to mark Chinese New Year, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said the challenges ahead remain daunting and Singapore cannot let its guard down.

The progress that the country has made in the past months is in no small part due to the resilience and cohesion of its people, he said.

"Our forefathers displayed grit and hard work and responded to challenging situations with an enterprising spirit and a never-say-die attitude to leave us what we have. We should do so similarly for our future generations," he said.

In a separate video message to mark Total Defence Day on Monday, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said cohesion and compliance ensured borders could reopen early to resume trade and commerce, which are key to Singapore's economy.

He highlighted how the nation came together to tackle the pandemic, from healthcare workers to economic agencies that kept supply chains intact and pre-ordered vaccines to security forces that ensured law and order was maintained. Businesses complied with restrictions imposed, community groups spun into action spontaneously, and full-time national servicemen extended their service to fight the pandemic, he added.

"As we commemorate Total Defence, we ask ourselves, did Singapore pass the test against Covid-19? I say with gratitude a resounding yes."

Singapore did not have it easy when the pandemic broke out in the migrant worker community, with tens of thousands affected, he said. Many workers - especially in hard-hit sectors like travel and hospitality - lost their incomes or jobs.

"Yet when the circuit breaker and other restrictions were imposed, Singaporeans rallied together and put the interest of Singapore before self," Dr Ng said in a video message broadcast on Facebook.

It was equally important that no specific groups were victimised or blamed, and no fault lines split open, he said. "We dealt with Covid-19 as one people, regardless of race, language or nationality in Singapore. The positive impact is evident, with one of the lowest mortality rates in the world, and where retrenchments did not balloon."

Singapore's economy is on the mend and mass vaccinations have begun. "It will take some more time for full recovery to a new normal but the beginning of this end is in sight," said Dr Ng.

Mr Chan said this year's Chinese New Year celebrations were different but no less significant. The Chinese New Year event organised by the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre and the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations was held virtually for the first time.

Mr Chan disclosed that a foreign reporter had asked him about Singapore's "secret formula" in fighting Covid-19. He responded by sharing the country's approach to testing, tracking and tracing, quarantine, social habits and personal hygiene.

He said the reporter was surprised that the minister did not share anything startling: "In the end, he observed correctly that what we did was nothing secret. But what was special was our ability to do the simple things consistently, in a disciplined and cohesive manner, that distinguished us from many others."

Outlining the work that remains to be done, Mr Chan said this included strengthening Singapore's position in the global value chain and helping companies and workers stay resilient and competitive.

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