Community spirit among Singaporeans shines through during Covid-19 pandemic, says public service report card

The Covid-19 Migrant Support Coalition provides workers with immediate needs from meals to mobile phones and mental health support. PHOTO: COVID-19 MIGRANT SUPPORT COALITION
Volunteers of Food Rescue Sengkang, with fruits and vegetables salvaged from the Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre, on Nov 7, 2020. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Covid-19 pandemic may have forced Singaporeans to isolate themselves at home and keep a safe distance from one another, but it has also united the community in unprecedented ways, said a report on how Singapore has fared in various areas.

Since the first case of the infection caused by the Sars-COV-2 virus hit Singapore's shores in January, individuals and businesses have joined hands with public agencies to help those affected by the health and economic crisis.

This partnership between the Government and the people has been a bright spot amid the gloom, with the Head of Civil Service Leo Yip saying on Thursday (Nov 26): "It highlights Singaporeans' strong spirit of care and concern for one another as well as how working together has enabled us to serve those in need and overcome this crisis as one."

The biennial Singapore Public Sector Outcomes Review (SPOR) report takes stock of how the public sector and Singapore have fared in a broad range of areas of national interest.

The latest report highlighted a number of key themes, among them Singapore's response to the pandemic.

"The Covid-19 pandemic has caused severe disruptions to our economy, livelihoods, and way of life. However, it has also fostered a strong spirit of care, cohesion, and active citizenry in our society," said the report.

Statistics show that calls for volunteers and donations were met with overwhelming response, with people not just pitching in to help in national efforts, but also starting spontaneous initiatives of their own.

The report said national contact tracing programme TraceTogether now covers more than 50 per cent of the population, with more than 2.9 million app and token users as at November.

However, this remains short of the 70 per cent take-up rate that is one of the pre-conditions for Singapore to enter Phase 3 of its reopening.

Some national campaigns like the mask collection drives attracted 28,000 grassroots, public service and citizen volunteers who manned booths at community centres and also did delivery runs to give out 13.2 million masks.

There were also more than 500 private hire car and taxi drivers who volunteered to drive people who were suspected of having Covid-19, but were clinically well, to hospitals.

And despite fears of how infectious the coronavirus can be, hundreds of general practitioner clinics joined the Public Health Preparedness Clinics scheme to provide subsidised treatment to those with respiratory symptoms and identify those with Covid-19.

These Government-led efforts, were augmented by the spontaneous initiatives of regular Singaporeans and businesses big and small who just wanted to help those around them. Some organised movements to show their appreciation for frontline workers while others donated care packs and food to vulnerable communities.

In all, more than 13,000 Singaporeans signed up as volunteers through the SGUnited portal set up for those who wanted to contribute, said the report.

And despite the economic fallout from the pandemic, $90 million was donated to the Community Chest, the Community Foundation of Singapore's Sayang Sayang Fund, as well as through the SG Cares app and the donation platform from January to May - almost as much as the donations received throughout the whole of last year by Community Chest and

Volunteers filling bottles with hand sanitiser for Temasek Foundation's #BYOBclean project. PHOTO: TEMASEK FOUNDATION

The collective effort comes on top of the $100 billion set aside in the four Budgets - called Unity, Resilience, Solidarity and Fortitude - to help businesses, save jobs, support workers and strengthen social and economic resilience.

Unlike past reports, this year's edition has a special section, entitled "Emerging Stronger as One", that is devoted to recognising this partnership between the Government and people in the fight against the coronavirus, Mr Yip noted.

"Whether in crisis or in normalcy, the Public Service will continue to strive for better outcomes for our citizens and our businesses. We will continue to partner with Singaporeans to build a better future Singapore society and economy, and to emerge stronger from this crisis," he added.

This partnership is even more critical as Singapore strives to overcome the challenges in the post-Covid world, said the report, adding that it is in line with the Singapore Together movement, which was started to give Singaporeans a bigger say in policy-making.

The Emerging Stronger Taskforce set up under Singapore Together, for instance, has been tasked to reset the economy and has convened industry-led coalitions in seven areas, with an eighth on the way, to quickly prototype ideas to seize opportunities for growth.

There is also the Emerging Stronger Conversations, launched in June 2020 for people to come together to reflect on the crisis and discuss how the nation should move forward.

The themes salient to Singaporeans that emerge from this exercise will be translated into ideas and concrete action by the Singapore Together Action Networks that will be formed for the task.

Through the Singapore Together movement, more than 20 representatives of small businesses, associations, landlord and tenant group contributed to the development of the Rental Relief Framework, which was introduced as part of the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Amendment Bill.

Their views on the difficulties businesses faced and the impact of the proposed measures were used to refine the relief measures.

With the help of contract law experts from the private sector, the Bill was introduced in 21 days, said the report.

"The road to recovery will be long and bumpy,'' added the report. "However, the solidarity and strong spirit of contribution and partnership we have witnessed will ensure we remain resilient and continue to look after one another in the journey ahead."

It noted: "Singapore will no doubt face further challenges in the future. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Singaporeans demonstrated that we are a democracy of deeds, with everyone playing a part in building our future Singapore.

"By continuing to work together, we can transform our challenges into opportunities to build a stronger, better society."

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