SINGAPORE: Singapore will need “unity and resilience more than ever” to fight COVID-19, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his National Day message on Aug 9.
Speaking in a national broadcast this morning, Mr Lee noted that many countries have seen their number of COVID-19 cases rise sharply after initially bringing the pandemic under control and easing restrictions. “This can happen to us too, despite all our precautions,” adding that the crisis is “far from over”.
Mr Lee said that it will most likely take “a year or two before a vaccine is widely available, and the threat of the virus is blunted”.
“Until then, we have to maintain our vigilance and resolve, to keep ourselves, our loved ones and our neighbours all safe.”
Singaporeans also need to be resilient in the face of the severe economic downturn, said Mr Lee. “Singaporeans are understandably anxious and worried. Business closures, retrenchments and unemployment are all likely to go up in the coming months.”
However, this is not Singapore’s first economic crisis, he added, citing the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, the aftermath of the Sep 11, 2001 terror attacks and the global financial crisis of 2007 to 2009.
“Each time the outlook was ominous and we feared the worst, but each time we worked hard to secure our position, gritted our teeth and came through together,” he said.
“I am confident we will get through this current crisis too, though it may take longer. All of us must do our part, but none of us will be alone.”
Adding that the Government is “actively helping” people find jobs and acquire new skills, Mr Lee said the Job Support Scheme (JSS) and Self-employed person Income Relief Scheme (SIRS) will ease the burden on employers and individuals.
The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) is also working with employers to create job training programmes and career pathways, and will also ensure that every worker is “treated fairly and with dignity, especially when job losses cannot be avoided”, said Mr Lee.
He urged employers to “make every effort” to keep their workers, and “not drop them at the first sign of trouble”.
“This will build loyalty and encourage the employees to help their employers rebuild when conditions improve.”
Singapore’s experience fighting COVID-19 has brought people closer together, noted Mr Lee.
“The shared ordeal will toughen a whole population and bond us together as one united people.
“Just like how the Pioneer and Merdeka Generations were tempered by Separation and Independence, and economic crises in our early years as a nation.”
SALUTING THE EVERYDAY HEROES
This National Day Parade is also an opportunity for Singaporeans to salute frontline workers fighting COVID-19, said the Prime Minister in his address.
Many of them have “gone way beyond the call of duty and shown great generosity of spirit”, he said.
For example, retired doctors and nurses volunteered to come back to work, full-time national servicemen extended their terms to support COVID-19 operations, and public officers volunteered to be redeployed to organise and look after migrant workers.
Many Singaporeans have also stepped up to help others in need, he added, acknowledging those who went door-to-door distributing meals and groceries to the elderly and low-income households, refurbished donated laptops for needy students, and volunteered to be trained for swab test operations.
“Migrant workers too played their part to support these operations. Their help was deeply appreciated by our SAF (Singapore Armed Forces), Home Team and public officers.
“These selfless acts have made all the difference to our response to COVID-19.”
A GENERATION THAT STOOD TOGETHER
Looking back at past National Day Parades, Mr Lee said: “In good years, our parades rejoice in our progress, and look forward to a better future together.
“In difficult years, we still hold National Day Parades, to renew our resolve to weather the storm and take Singapore through to better days.”
Recalling the heavy rain during the 1968 National Day Parade at the Padang, he added: “The rain poured down, but the contingents stood steady, and marched past proudly, drenched, yet undaunted.
“We showed ourselves and the world that Singaporeans were rugged people, and had the steel in us to stand firm in adversity.”
He also highlighted the 2015 National Day Parade, when Singapore celebrated SG50 and mourned the passing of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew earlier that year.
“Let us brace ourselves for the trials ahead, so that many years from now, when our grandchildren celebrate National Day, they will look back on these times and say yes, this generation stood together, sacrificed for one another and built Singapore for us,” said Mr Lee.
“We have dreams to realise and goals to reach for. Let us show the world that whatever the challenges, Singaporeans will stay united and prevail once more.