SINGAPORE - A special state award, called the Covid-19 Resilience Medal, will be given to those who have helped to directly fight Covid-19 during the pandemic in recognition of their sacrifices and public spirit.
This new award from the Government will recognise both individuals and teams, PM Lee said on Sunday (Aug 21) in his National Day Rally speech.
In addition, those who made exceptional contributions will receive existing state awards such as the Commendation Medal, the Public Service Medal and the Public Administration Medal.
There will be a special indication with the name and the insignia to show that the medal was presented for service fighting Covid-19, said PM Lee, who jokingly suggested having two red lines on the ribbon representing the lines in antigen rapid test results.
The recipients will be announced at the end of the year, and the award ceremonies will be held next year.
In his speech, PM Lee also mentioned some people who had gone the extra mile to help others.
One of them is retiree Alice Chua, who is in her early 60s. She volunteered at vaccination centres in East Coast, and took fellow seniors to their appointments.
"Because she spoke Malay, and Chinese dialects, she also bridged language gaps, and could reassure and comfort the seniors during their jabs. Every bit counted in our national vaccination campaign," said PM Lee.
“It’s an honour, not just for myself but as a representative of all those who volunteered during the Covid-19 pandemic,” Madam Chua told The Straits Times.
Another individual he singled out is Madam Ruku Pakirisamy, 72, a Yishun resident.
"She noticed many elderly neighbours were afraid to go out during the pandemic, so they were getting listless and moody. To lift their spirits, she cooked and distributed meals for her neighbours. Sometimes curry, sometimes beehoon. A simple pack of hot meal brought many warm smiles," added the Prime Minister.
“I never thought the Prime Minister would speak about me. I was so happy,” said Madam Ruku, a part-time cleaner.
She said she was inspired by her parents’ efforts to foster a community spirit when the family lived in a kampung during her childhood years.
PM Lee also noted Toa Payoh resident Razali Puasa's kind act.
"The playground near his block is very popular with young kids. But he saw that everyone was afraid of Covid-19. So he decided to wipe down and disinfect the playground. To reassure families that it was clean and safe to let their kids play there. A simple gesture, which made all the difference to the community," he said.
In his Malay speech, PM Lee also gave credit to the many Malay/Muslims at the front and centre in Singapore's Covid-19 fight.
One individual he cited is Dr Norhisham Main from Ng Teng Fong General Hospital, who is the president of the Muslim Healthcare Professionals Association.
Despite his heavy load of patients, both Covid-19 and non Covid-19, Dr Norhisham was regularly on the ground outside of work to explain the Covid-19 situation to the Malay/Muslim community.
He helped to dispel their fears and concerns about the virus and garnered their support for Singapore's safe management measures, PM Lee said.
Dr Norhisham said: “Our past experiences from severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) and our knowledge of pandemics taught us that we are able to overcome Covid-19.
“It’s our duty and responsibility to serve our community and get health back on track.”
PM Lee added in his speech: "These personal acts of kindness, courage and concern, the Singapore spirit shone brightly. It has made us collectively a better people and a more resilient society."
In Singapore's national response, many also went above and beyond their call of duty.
For example, healthcare workers, through their care and professionalism ensured that the rest of Singapore could carry on safely with their daily lives; public officers, especially those on the front lines, carried out many demanding operations, often at short notice; private companies generously provided resources and industry know-how to tackle many problems; non-governmental organisations and community groups made special efforts to take care of those who needed more help.
PM Lee also noted that Singapore has managed to successfully spread out the impact of the pandemic and prevented the hospitals from being overwhelmed.
Thus far, the Republic has had fewer than 1,600 Covid-19-related deaths, he added.