Coronavirus: Show support for healthcare workers on front lines, says Gan Kim Yong

Broader community joins battle against coronavirus as infection hits 50 cases

In a photo taken on Jan 28, 2020, medical staff are seen wearing masks around the premises of the National Centre for Infectious Diseases. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

As more cases of coronavirus infection surface, this is the time for people to rally around healthcare workers and not shun them, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong.

He announced yesterday that three more people had been infected, bringing the total here to 50. But as the fight against the virus intensifies, there are signs that the broader community is rallying behind healthcare workers in the front lines.

Mr Gan urged: "Let us come together to show our support for them, and to support their work, so they continue to take care of our patients and families and our loved ones."

"Sometimes, a kind word or a warm greeting will go a long way to make them feel appreciated and give them a morale boost to continue the fight," he added.

Healthcare workers, who had been in the front lines of the fight during the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak in 2003, had been shunned by those who feared they might pass on the infection. Mr Gan indicated that he does not want this to be repeated.

Meanwhile, one million masks will be distributed to general practitioners and specialists in private practice, who need them to protect themselves, their staff and patients.

"They will get the supplies that they need because they are a part of our team," said Mr Gan.

"In this challenging time, it is important for us to work together as a team, as a community and as a nation, to overcome this infection and to keep Singaporeans safe," he added.

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee, who was also at the news conference, said 90 per cent of the drivers from private-hire company Grab are keen to join a new service called Grabcare that will "help our healthcare workers get to and from healthcare facilities".

The service will start tomorrow for those working at Tan Tock Seng Hospital and the National Centre for Infectious Diseases, he said.

He said that for Singaporeans who are inspired by such actions, there are opportunities to contribute.

The Courage Fund that was launched for healthcare workers who battled Sars is still active.

Money from the fund helps patients, healthcare workers and their families, as well as the wider community affected by the outbreak.

Donations have started pouring in again.

In a Facebook post last night, President Halimah Yacob announced that the President's Challenge, which has been mobilising resources to help those who may be more susceptible, will be donating $250,000 to the Courage Fund to further support vulnerable groups to tide over this period.

"It is challenging times like this that will truly define who we are as a nation," she wrote.

Another $300,000 has been donated by the CapitaLand Hope Foundation.

Youth Corps will support Willing Hearts, a dignity kitchen, to distribute meals to seniors and the vulnerable, Mr Lee said.

Meanwhile, of the 50 infected, 15 have recovered and been discharged, but eight are seriously ill and in intensive care.

While most infected patients will recover, Mr Gan warned: "Some may get seriously ill, and a small number may succumb to the infection ultimately.

"We have to be prepared for the worst."

The fight against the virus ahead may get harder, he said.

Mr Gan said in Mandarin: "Because we are stepping up our surveillance and doing more testing, we can well expect to see more cases in the coming days and weeks."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2020, with the headline Coronavirus: Show support for healthcare workers on front lines, says Gan Kim Yong. Subscribe