SINGAPORE: While 2020 has been an “exceptionally testing year” for Singapore, there is now light at the end of the tunnel, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his New Year message on Thursday (Dec 31).
Singapore is in Phase 3 of its reopening, noted Mr Lee. COVID-19 vaccinations have begun and the economy is starting to see signs of stabilisation, he added.
READ: COVID-19: Social gatherings of up to 8 people allowed from Dec 28, further reopening of activities in Phase 3
“COVID-19 has been a relentless fight that has tested our resources and resolve to the fullest,” said Mr Lee.
“Through enormous effort and sacrifice, we have stabilised our situation in Singapore, even as the virus continues to rage on elsewhere in the world.”
Singapore’s fatality rate from COVID-19 is “very low”, said Mr Lee. Currently on many days, there are no new local infections. Imported cases are mainly returning Singaporeans and permanent residents, as well as construction and foreign domestic workers.
“Now, we have entered Phase 3. The first batch of vaccines has arrived in Singapore, and vaccinations have already begun. We can now see light at the end of the tunnel,” said Mr Lee.
“But it will still take some time for enough people to be vaccinated before we are safe from another major uncontrolled outbreak. In the meantime, we must maintain discipline, and continue with safe distancing and all the other precautions that we have been taking.”
SINGAPOREANS’ TRUST IN THE SYSTEM
While COVID-19 has resulted in Singapore’s most severe economic downturn since independence, it is looking forward to a rebound in 2021, although recovery will be uneven and activity will remain below pre-pandemic levels “for some time”, said Mr Lee.
To support workers and companies, he noted that the Government passed five Budgets totalling close to S$100 billion, adding that employers and the National Trades Union Congress have worked hard to keep Singaporeans employed.
“We will continue to make sure that in these difficult times, Singaporeans get the appropriate support they need,” said Mr Lee.
What stood out in Singapore’s response to COVID-19 is the people’s trust in the system and in one another, said the Prime Minister.
“In many countries, COVID-19 has deepened old fault lines and created new tensions. Singapore has thankfully avoided major divisions among our people, and the pessimism and loss of trust that have happened elsewhere,” he said.
“Trust in our system remains high. Singaporeans have cooperated with the Government and complied with the COVID-19 rules, because the Government has been open and upfront about the facts, and justified your faith that it is doing its very best to deal with the crisis.”
Mr Lee added that Singaporeans renewed the mandate of the People’s Action Party (PAP) government as they had confidence that the team could see the country through COVID-19 and beyond.
“My team and I will strive to continue deserving your trust, to keep on strengthening our social compact, to sustain the promise of Singapore as a fair and just society, and to help you achieve your hopes and dreams,” he said.
“We are determined to give every Singaporean equal opportunity to do well, to prepare you to take advantage of opportunities in a different world, and to help you deal with life’s inevitable setbacks.”
THE WORLD POST-COVID-19
While the post-COVID-19 world is uncertain, Singapore “must emerge strengthened by the shared experience of this crisis”, said Mr Lee.
“Whether we indeed become a more vibrant economy and resilient society will depend on us, and on the decisions that you and I make in this crisis and beyond.”
Just as people in Singapore have come together and overcome the challenges of the pandemic, they must also rally to rebuild “better and stronger”, he said, adding that the fight against COVID-19 is “not yet won”.
“In the months and years ahead, we will face new and unexpected hurdles. Things may happen that force us to change our plans, he said. “But as long as we stay together as one Singapore, I am confident we will blaze a path forward.”