SINGAPORE - While the Covid-19 pandemic has affected millions around the world, Singaporeans have responded to it with unity, fortitude and resilience, and managed to keep the number of community cases low in recent weeks.
Speaking during a virtual National Day observance ceremony in Bedok on Saturday (Aug 8) morning, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, anchor minister for East Coast GRC, praised Singaporeans' efforts: "Everyone has played a part, making sacrifices and adjustments as the situation evolves."
"Our healthcare professionals and front-line workers are at the centre of this fight. Their dedication to the call of duty has kept us safe," said Mr Heng, who is also Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies and Minister for Finance.
He also highlighted efforts by the community, such as seniors learning how to go digital, business owners who have taken SafeEntry and safe distancing measures seriously, and residents who have been exercising personal responsibility such as wearing masks when going out.
"With our efforts together, we have managed to keep community cases to the single digit in the past weeks. But we must continue to stay vigilant and keep to the safe management measures, to avoid a new wave of infections," said Mr Heng.
He said Covid-19 is not just a public health crisis, but has also disrupted jobs and brought the worst economic contraction in decades.
"The road ahead is going to be difficult and full of uncertainties. We are facing the worst crisis since independence 55 years ago. Our lives, our jobs and our future are at stake," he said. He pointed to the government's efforts to commit close to $100 billion in four Budgets to fight Covid-19, with the top priority being jobs.
Mr Heng, who was speaking at Bedok Community Centre, was joined by his fellow MPs in the GRC - Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Mohamad Maliki Osman, Mr Tan Kiat How, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office and for National Development, Ms Cheryl Chan and Ms Jessica Tan.
"As part of the National Day celebrations at East Coast, the five of us will be embarking on the East Coast Trail next week on Aug 15. East Coast is a very big and diverse area, all the way from Bedok Town Centre to Pulau Ubin, and even to Pedra Branca," said Mr Heng.
"So we are exploring many interesting sites and features in the East Coast and this is the first part of our exploring East Coast. So do join us virtually on our East Coast Buzz Facebook page."
Former MPs Lim Swee Say and Lee Yi Shyan made a guest appearance during the event, which was attended by residents from more than 500 Bedok households via Zoom and also streamed live on Facebook.
There were activities such as a sing-along session, a virtual mass workout session, a National Day quiz, and the traditional pledge taking and singing of the National Anthem.
Mr Heng also thanked East Coast GRC residents for their trust and support in the recent general election. The PAP team won with 53.39 per cent of the vote.
"Now, together with Maliki, Kiat How, Jessica and Cheryl, we are determined to serve you better and to deliver on the mandate that you have given us."
Meanwhile, Marine Parade GRC and Mountbatten and MacPherson SMCs held a combined virtual National Day event on Saturday.
The 15-hour event started at 10am, and is streamed live on the Marine Parade Cluster and Geylang Serai Community Club Facebook pages.
The event includes a range of arts workshops, theatrical acts, multi-ethnic dances and live musical performances, culminating in a countdown to the nation's 55th birthday.
In his opening remarks, Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin, who heads the Marine Parade GRC team, said that Covid-19 has affected lives and taken away jobs, but Singapore can emerge stronger from this crisis.
"Importantly, the government will do all it can to help you. The community will also do what it can to stand together with you and journey this together.. We need to do this together," said Mr Tan.
"And I think that's what being Singapore is all about. It's not just a concept and a notion, but it's about relationships.. between all the different entities that add up and make up what we call home, what we call Singapore."
Also on Saturday, President Halimah Yacob joined the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations' 14th National Day Sing-along, which was held virtually too. In her opening remarks, Madam Halimah acknowledged the work of the nation's front-line workers during this pandemic.
"Thank you for your selfless contributions to keep all of us safe during this period. This is a testament to our resilience and #SGUnited spirit. As we celebrate our 55th National Day, let us stand in solidarity with one another to overcome the challenges ahead," she said.