SINGAPORE: The nation has been put to the test the last few weeks due to the COVID-19 outbreak and the strongest defence is a collective one with everyone playing a part, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said on Total Defence Day on Saturday (Feb 15).
Speaking at a commemoration event marking 78 years since the British surrendered to the Japanese Imperial Forces, Mr Chan looked at how Singapore has been dealing with the virus, framed against the pillars of Total Defence.
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Mr Chan lauded workers fighting the virus on the frontline as well as the initiatives led by the community to show appreciation for them, and pointed out how digital defence was put into action here.
"As evidenced by last week’s panic buying, a few of the same photos and videos, shared many times over, could trigger long queues at supermarkets," he said to a crowd at The Float @ Marina Bay, which included hundreds of recruits, as well as Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and Singapore Armed Forces officials.
Falsehoods and rumours must be countered collectively, and that discipline to verify sources of information is both an individual and collective responsibility, he added.
"We must recognise the asymmetry in human psychology – bad news travel faster than good news. Fear overwhelms more easily than calmness. Because of this reason, all the more we need to try harder," said Mr Chan.
The ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 - with 67 confirmed cases in Singapore as of Friday night - has put the country to the test in the past few weeks, said Mr Chan.
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"We have done reasonably well thus far against an unknown enemy, but we certainly have room to improve and we must never be complacent.”
He said many Singaporeans have stepped up, demonstrating strong civil defence - with healthcare workers at the forefront, Home Team officers guarding against "a virus that we do not fully understand yet" and others manning islandwide mask collection centres.
As for Singapore's economic defence, the country's supply chains and stockpile were tested in the last two weeks, said Mr Chan.
"We did not do too badly," he said, referring to Singapore's strategies of stockpiling on top of local production and diversified supply sources. "But we can certainly improve."
In the arena of social defence, COVID-19 was not based on nationality, race, language or religion and "does not respect borders or territories", said Mr Chan.
"In times like this, we close ranks to help one another in our social defence,” he said.
"We will not ostracise our medical workers, CISCO officers and frontline staff in this battle. Neither will we ostracise foreign counterparts who are here as part of Team Singapore."
National servicemen are trained to overcome fear through collective action, said Mr Chan, adding that they "always have the confidence that no one will fight the battle alone".
"This is how we can do it as a nation as well. Likewise, to avoid being paralysed by fear and tunnel vision of the current challenges, we must also remember to focus on the hope for our future even in the toughest moments," he said.
"In the past weeks, we have seen the best of many and the worst of a few. It is our job to make sure that those who have done well, those who are strong, continue to reach out to those who are weak and help everyone to overcome this collectively."
He said that Singapore will emerge stronger through such challenges and crises, for the world to see "a shining red dot that inspires confidence and distinguishes ourselves from the rest".
"Our collective spirit and resolve over these past weeks have demonstrated that, when everyone plays our part and helps one another, we fear no challenges."
The event also featured the unveiling of a new Total Defence logo, with the sixth pillar of digital defence added in, designed by 31-year-old allied educator Samantha Alexa Teng Si Min.
A version of the story was inadvertently published earlier, ahead of an agreed embargo. We apologise for the error.