SINGAPORE: Singapore’s “massive effort” against COVID-19 over the last six months involved many Singaporeans in the private and public sectors, said Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong.
“It is truly a tremendous SG United effort,” he said.
While the country has had its “fair share of challenges”, teamwork has helped in overcoming them and making progress, Mr Wong said.
Mr Wong, who leads a multi-ministry task force on COVID-19, was speaking about the country’s fight against the pandemic on the People’s Action Party’s Facebook "live" talk show on Tuesday (Jul 7).
Alongside him were new candidates Dr Tan See Leng, who is contesting in the Marine Parade GRC, and Mr Xie Yao Quan, in the Jurong GRC.
“We have been able to keep our community infection rates at a very low level, we've protected Singaporeans, particularly the most vulnerable groups, and our fatality rate is one of the lowest in the world.”
On the efforts towards the large clusters in foreign worker dormitories, Mr Wong said that it was a “significant humanitarian response”.
“We recognise that these workers are an integral part of our community,” he said.
Mr Wong cited how Singapore tested and cleared all migrant workers systematically in the dormitories and built ancillary healthcare facilities in a “very short time”. Beyond healthcare, the daily needs of the workers were also taken care of, such as in food and ensuring they continued to be paid, added Mr Wong.
“If you look at countries with large migrant worker communities, they have had infections too in these communities.
"But no one has mounted such a strong and significant response as we have," he said.
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Dr Tan See Leng, who was approached to assist in the COVID-19 efforts in early March, said that while we had our healthcare “heroes” at the frontline, there was also “an entire ecosystem” of companies and people supporting them.
“We have architects who have gone on to design, engineers to build the facilities.
“We’ve got people who are working behind the scenes to frantically call and reach out to contacts all over the world to procure masks, make sure that these are of the highest grade … to protect our entire chain of healthcare workers,” said Dr Tan.
There was also those procuring testing reagents and equipment, and cleaning staff to thank, he added.
KEEPING SINGAPORE AHEAD OF THE CURVE
When asked about moving into Phase 3 of the circuit breaker, Mr Wong said that Singapore could be in Phase 2 for a number of months. Phase 2 will also “include potentially a review of many other measures we currently have”.
“There is a lot of extra interest to relax the social restrictions,” Mr Wong said. “But we have to be very careful in thinking about these steps.”
"We should be mentally prepared that life is unlikely to go back to what it was before the circuit breaker."
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Mr Xie, who is the head of healthcare redesign at Alexandra Hospital, said that if or when the second wave may come, the “central challenge” for public health in Singapore is to “find a balance between resuming services for non-COVID-19 conditions … and retaining the capacity to handle that second wave”.
The key success factor of Singapore’s public healthcare system, said Mr Xie, is the “tenacity to deal with uncertainty and a very ambiguous, rapidly changing situation”.
Dr Tan added that the morale of healthcare workers is “quite high” as they have confidence in the healthcare system.
“Number one, they are well protected with the full PPE (personal protective equipment). (We) make sure that the best quality protection is given.
“And the second thing is they know with confidence that if they should catch the bug, our healthcare system will care for them because (it is) not overwhelmed.”
How else is Singapore poised to fight COVID-19? We have significant buffers and reserves through the community care facilities and ancillary facilities, Mr Wong said.
“Today’s needs have come down but we still have the reserve capacity and … the nimbleness and agility to move quickly is there.
“Of course, we really do not want to have to use the reserves if we can help it.”