Fighting a pandemic: Leo Yee Sin

National Centre for Infectious Diseases executive director Leo Yee Sin said one of the most fulfilling parts of fighting the pandemic is in making and sharing new discoveries about the coronavirus. ST FILE PHOTO
National Centre for Infectious Diseases executive director Leo Yee Sin said one of the most fulfilling parts of fighting the pandemic is in making and sharing new discoveries about the coronavirus. PHOTO: ST FILE

PROFESSOR LEO YEE SIN

NCID executive director

Public Administration Medal (Silver)


When the coronavirus arrived in Singapore early this year, the country's key infectious diseases body had to move fast to respond, even though it was new and untested.

The National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) started full operations in the middle of last year, taking over the functions of Tan Tock Seng Hospital's Communicable Disease Centre.

"We are operating under a very new set-up, a system and structure that is yet to be tested. We had planned for a drill and exercise, but Covid-19 happened first," said NCID executive director Leo Yee Sin, who has been awarded the Public Administration Medal (Silver) in this year's National Day Awards.

"NCID's additional resources to handle an outbreak... were stretched in the face of a fast-moving virus of such large scale, much greater than the experience of Sars had prepared us for," she added.

One of the most fulfilling parts of fighting the pandemic for Professor Leo is in making and sharing new discoveries about the coronavirus.

She explained that as Singapore was among several Asian countries to first detect Covid-19 cases from China, it could generate new information through research to help other countries develop their own responses to the outbreak.

These included differentiating Covid-19 from other coronaviruses, and seroepidemiological studies looking at the degree of infection in households and close contacts of Covid-19 patients and among healthcare workers.

"Our staff have done a remarkable job. We understand our mission, vision and core values," said Prof Leo. "Every one of us has stepped up to fight the virus and there is unity and teamwork. I also know they work very hard - beyond their regular hours - but I have not had anyone come to my room to complain."

She also commended the efforts and adaptability of the staff from other healthcare institutions who have been deployed to beef up NCID operations. The battle is far from over, she said, adding that they are "racing against time and yet still behind the virus".

A full list of this year's National Day Award recipients is available at the PMO website.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 09, 2020, with the headline Fighting a pandemic: Leo Yee Sin. Subscribe