'He's literally on my speed dial': Lawrence Wong, Gan Kim Yong on working together to fight Covid-19

The ministers were speaking to reporters on Jan 19 at a press conference to mark one year of Covid-19 in Singapore.
The ministers were speaking to reporters on Jan 19 at a press conference to mark one year of Covid-19 in Singapore.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - If there is one thing Health Minister Gan Kim Yong has learnt about Education Minister Lawrence Wong, it is that he is a decisive man.

"I look at the way he discusses and raises issues and makes decisions," said Mr Gan, 61. "Once the facts are clear, we will have no ifs and buts. Just move, and get it done."

And for Mr Wong, 48, his senior colleague has been a "great mentor" with whom he has worked closely since both men became co-chairs of the multi-ministerial task force tackling the Covid-19 pandemic.

"He's literally on my speed dial. I disturb him all the time because, after all, I'm coming in cold," Mr Wong said, referring to how he was relatively new to the healthcare scene.

The ministers were speaking to reporters on Tuesday (Jan 19) at a press conference to mark one year of Covid-19 in Singapore. They had been asked how their impressions of one another had changed over the last 12 months.

"Somehow, I don't know why, I've been tied to Kim Yong in different ways, even before Covid-19," Mr Wong responded.

He succeeded Mr Gan as the PAP Community Foundation's management council chairman in 2015, and took over as the Singapore Labour Foundation's chairman in 2018. Mr Gan guided him in both transitions, Mr Wong said.

Part of his role as co-chairman of the task force involves thinking out of the box, he added, since he - unlike Mr Gan - is not within the Health Ministry (MOH).

"From time to time, I'll just call him up, brainstorm, throw up ideas," Mr Wong said. "And he's always open-minded... helping me to understand better what the science is, what MOH's opinion is, and then together we've been able to sort of think through and brainstorm, and come up with solutions together."

To that, Mr Gan added that he was "very happy" to be working with "a very decisive co-chairman".