Coronavirus: Opposition party leaders call for calm and solidarity with front liners battling epidemic

The PSP put up a Valentine's Day banner with images of healthcare workers on its Facebook page while the secretary-general of Singapore People's Party, Mr Steve Chia, went to the ground to distribute bottles of hand sanitiser. PHOTOS: PROGRESS SINGAPORE PARTY/FACEBOOK, STEVE CHIA/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - As Singapore tackles the coronavirus outbreak, leaders of the various opposition parties have stepped forward to urge people to stay calm and rally around those at the front line in combating the epidemic.

Last Friday (Feb 14), Workers' Party (WP) chief Pritam Singh lauded the efforts of a woman who, with her team, filled almost 100 hand sanitiser bottles and delivered them to sweepers and estate cleaners in Eunos.

Mr Singh posted his praise of the woman, a Ms Gina, on his Facebook page, saying she personified "the Singapore Spirit".

He also appreciated her initiative in asking the WP-run Aljunied-Hougang Town Council what she could do, despite having moved out of Eunos a few years ago.

"Many thanks Gina, thank you for your selflessness, and keeping the Eunos community in your thoughts," wrote the MP for Aljunied GRC.

In recent days, the WP, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) led by Dr Chee Soon Juan, and Progress Singapore Party (PSP) led by Dr Tan Cheng Bock have separately urged Singaporeans to stay united and calm as the nation grapples with the Covid-19 disease, and to be wary of circulating fake news.

The WP also thanked healthcare workers and those protecting Singapore's borders for their sacrifices.

The PSP put up a Valentine's Day banner with images of healthcare workers on its Facebook page last Friday that called on people to "Spread Love Not Fear". It has also called on people to stand united and support front-line workers battling the epidemic.

PSP's Dr Tan, a former People's Action Party MP and candidate in the 2011 presidential election, has also urged people to "Stay calm. Take care. Be considerate."

Citing Singapore's success in overcoming severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) in 2003 and the H1N1 influenza in 2009, he encouraged Singaporeans to trust that the country had learnt lessons on "outbreak management and spread containment" from the experiences.

The secretary-general of Singapore People's Party, former non-constituency MP Steve Chia, also went to the ground to distribute bottles of sanitisers.

Last Thursday, he posted on his Facebook page that he had distributed about 150 such bottles to residents in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC. The following day, he called for volunteers to help him pour sanitiser from bottles he bought in Malaysia into smaller containers for distribution to residents and service staff in Toa Payoh Central.

Some have, however, been more critical of the Government amid the health situation.

Dr Chee reiterated last Wednesday his party's opposition to the Government's plan to raise the goods and services tax from 7 per cent to 9 per cent sometime after 2021.

He wrote on his Facebook page: "There was already little justification for the Government to increase the GST before the coronavirus outbreak. Now with the adverse economic conditions ahead, it is all the more inconceivable for the PAP to proceed with its plans to increase the GST to 9 per cent."

The exact timing of the tax hike has yet to be announced, but the Government has indicated that this will be sometime between 2021 and 2025, during the next term of government, and it will come with measures to offset its impact, especially for lower-income households.

Meanwhile, People's Power Party chief Goh Meng Seng questioned the PAP's advice that only those feeling unwell need to wear masks, and criticised Singapore's restrictions on in-bound travellers from China as having kicked in too late.

He called for more radical measures, saying that the failure to implement universal masking was "a mistake", even urging Singaporeans to prepare to make their own masks.

The Government has said enough masks are available if people use them sensibly and responsibly.

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