Government to ensure minimal retrenchments as S’pore deals with coronavirus: Ng Eng Hen

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing (left), Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen observing the packing of masks by SAF servicemen at Safti Military Institute, on Jan 31, 2020.
Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing (left), Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen observing the packing of masks by SAF servicemen at Safti Military Institute, on Jan 31, 2020.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - As Singapore’s economy is hit by the coronavirus crisis, the Government will ensure retrenchments are kept to a minimum, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.

“Even as we deal with the viral outbreak, we must ensure that our economy can function to keep jobs and livelihoods for Singapore,” he said in his Total Defence Day message on Friday (Feb 14).

“The Government will work with companies and unions to ensure that retrenchments are kept to a minimum, if at all.”

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat had earlier said the Government will unveil a support package at Budget 2020 to help businesses affected by the outbreak of the coronavirus disease, known as Covid-19.

In his message,Dr Ng recounted how in 2003, Sars, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, had caused sickness and death.

The fear of being infected gripped citizens everywhere, tourists stopped travelling and people stayed home, he said. As a result, jobs were lost and retrenchments went up.

“In some countries, this fear created distrust and divided people. But in Singapore, we rallied through Total Defence, stayed united, overcame the Sars crisis to emerge intact and stronger,” he said.

The national defence framework has to come into action again against the coronavirus, Dr Ng said.


As part of social defence, everyone has to practice good hygiene and stay away from others if sick, he urged. “At the same time, we must show empathy and compassion to help those who are infected or under quarantine.”

Psychological defence has to be strengthened to withstand the ups and downs from the virus outbreak, he added.

Daily life can go on with sensible precautions, such as washing one’s hands and keeping them away from the face, he said.

He added that Singaporeans also have to guard against digital threats like false information during this period.

The minister said digital defence, the latest pillar of Total Defence, was a timely and necessary addition, as dealing with the virus outbreak has shown.

False information about the disease or messages to incite hatred against any group  do much harm, he noted.

“We must never let these Drums – distortions, rumours, untruths, misinformation and smears – be heard lest they sow discord, divide our people and ultimately weaken our will to defeat the outbreak and defend Singapore.”

Total Defence Day is commemorated on Feb 15 every year – the day Singapore fell to the Japanese in 1942, which was followed by three and a half years of Japanese Occupation.

Digital defence was added last year as the sixth pillar of the Total Defence. Economic, social, psychological, military, and civil defence make up the other five pillars of Total Defence.


Dr Ng also said the country’s civil and military defences are “in good working order”.

He offered his condolences to families of victims who have suffered, and saluted frontline staff, such as doctors, nurses and healthcare workers who treat patients every day.

As Singapore marks Total Defence Day, he said he has every confidence Singaporeans will again rally and win the fight against the coronavirus.

“If we maintain that resolve, with each Singaporean committed to doing their part, then Singapore can continue to be a shining example for many years to come.”