A string of initiatives to support healthcare workers on the front line of efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak has emerged, amid reports that some workers were shunned in public.
The initiatives include one to encourage private-hire drivers to ferry healthcare workers and a movement to pen notes of encouragement.
From tomorrow, some doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals will have access to a new dedicated on-demand service from Grab to get rides to travel to and from hospitals.
The service, called GrabCare, will start operating for healthcare professionals to book a ride home from the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) and Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), said Grab in a statement yesterday.
The firm added that the service will be subsequently expanded to include rides from homes to hospitals, and widened to more participating hospitals.
Grab has reached out to NCID and TTSH to obtain details of relevant medical staff so that they can be included in a list of people approved to use the GrabCare function.
Once included in the list, users will have an option in their app to select a GrabCare ride - in addition to the other standard options.
When these users choose to get a GrabCare ride, their request will be sent out to drivers who have indicated their interest to ferry these medical professionals.
Grab said that 2,000 driver-partners have signed up to be part of the service since Tuesday.
In a Facebook post yesterday, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan hailed the initiative after meeting some of the drivers earlier in the day at the Newton Food Centre.
Mr Khaw, who was health minister during the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak in 2003, underscored the importance of supporting medical professionals and said that the dedication and bravery of hospital workers now is reminiscent of those during Sars.
"Their stories remind me of Sars when I personally witnessed so many brave acts of our healthcare workers. Nobody left their stations. They stayed put, to save and care for as many as they could," he said.
"A few succumbed to Sars. That is why it is heart-wrenching to read of some who shun our healthcare workers."
Mr Khaw was joined by labour chief Ng Chee Meng, who noted that some of the drivers and leaders of the National Taxi Association and National Private Hire Vehicles Association had embarked on a similar effort during the Sars outbreak.
"They assured me that they will do their best to rally the ground to support our healthcare workers because they understand it is imperative that we stand as one people in our fight against the virus," Mr Ng added.
There is also an ongoing movement to write notes of encouragement to front-line medical staff, as part of a movement known as #braveheartsg.
Members of the public are invited to pen handwritten notes, take pictures of them, and then upload the images onto Facebook as public posts with the hashtag #braveheartsg.
They can also e-mail the photos to email@example.com
Community group StandUp For.SG, which is spearheading this initiative, will print out these images and distribute them to staff at healthcare institutions across the island from Valentine's Day tomorrow onwards.
Since the initiative began last Saturday, it has already drawn more than 800 responses.
StandUpFor.SG co-founder Wally Tham wants medical professionals to know that Singaporeans are behind them.
"As they fight this coronavirus, we have their backs and we love them and care for them," he said in a video explaining what the #braveheartsg movement is about.
"So let's all come together and show them our support."