Singaporeans have been 'pitching in' to deal with Wuhan coronavirus threat: Shanmugam

Singaporeans have been 'pitching in' to deal with Wuhan coronavirus threat: Shanmugam

RC members preparing face masks for distribution (1)
Members of Woodlands Zone 1 Residents' Committee packing face masks for distribution on Feb 1, 2020.

SINGAPORE: The reaction of Singaporeans, as they pitch in to help with the Wuhan coronavirus threat, has been 'amazing', said Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on Sunday (Feb 2).

"You can see a collective coming together, a determination to deal with this, and everyone pitching in," said the minister on a visit to Changi Airport where he interacted with Immigration and Checkpoints Authority officers.

Shanmugam Changi Airport ICA officers
Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam interacts with immigration officers at Changi Airport on Feb 2, 2020. 

He raised various examples of how Singaporeans have risen to the occasion: Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) personnel packing masks for distribution to Singapore households, Home Team officers taking on extra shifts and duties, grassroots leaders putting up posters in lifts overnight to tell residents where they can collect their masks and volunteers manning the counters to give out the masks.

READ: Singapore supportive of China, confident it can deal with Wuhan coronavirus: Shanmugam

READ: No new cases of Wuhan coronavirus in Singapore, total remains at 18

Earlier in the week, it was announced that each Singapore household will receive four surgical face masks, amid worries over the Wuhan coronavirus and long queues for masks at retailers across the island.

Soldiers packing face masks at SAFTI MI (2)
Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) personnel packs face mask for distribution to the public at SAFTI Military Institute in Jurong on Jan 31. (Photo: Try Sutrisno Foo)

On Saturday, distribution of surgical masks to all Singaporean households started at 89 Community Centres and 654 Resident Committee centres.

About 1,500 SAF personnel were mobilised to pack and deliver the masks to the distribution points.

READ: Minimal queues, thin crowds: First day of free mask collection largely proceeds without a hitch

READ: Wuhan coronavirus: 1,500 SAF personnel packing 5.2m masks in 24-hour operation

Mr Shanmugam also lauded those who came forward to perform "spontaneous acts of generosity".

"People conducting hygiene classes, distributing toiletries for personal hygiene ... Residents who give away the masks that they have collected to others whom they think might need it more," he said. 

"So the Singaporean spirit, the generosity of spirit, has been quite amazing to see."

Shanmugam doorstop Changi Airport Feb 2, 2020
Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam speaks to reporters at Changi Airport on Feb 2, 2020. 

He noted, however, that there were some "disturbing trends", such as the spread of fake news on the novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 300 and infected about 14,500 worldwide.

There have also been reports of discrimination against Chinese nationals, he said, such as being denied services at a clinic or bullied because he or she is from China.

READ: Wuhan coronavirus: Licence fees waived for hotels, travel agents and tour guides, cleaning costs subsidised

"Really, we are bigger than this and our hearts are bigger than this, and we shouldn’t come down to this level of xenophobia," he said.

"Disturbingly, we have also noticed a number of racially-tinged actions and posts ... Some people show their true thoughts at times like these."

This is a "small minority", he added.

"Overwhelmingly, our society has shown itself to be calm, confident and a generosity of spirit in their actions and words. This is very good to see."

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Source: CNA/hm

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