SINGAPORE: The battle against the novel coronavirus requires every Singaporean to play their part, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong in Parliament on Monday (Feb 3).
The Government is doing everything it can to contain the outbreak, but it also needs every Singaporean to take all necessary precautions and exercise individual and collective responsibility, said Mr Wong in a ministerial statement on the virus.
Mr Wong is co-chair of a multi-ministry taskforce set up to fight the spread of the virus.
At an individual level, Singaporeans need to uphold good personal hygiene by washing their hands regularly, not touching their faces and covering their mouths when coughing or sneezing.
They should also avoid public places and wear a mask if they have flu-like symptoms, so as to avoid infecting others.
Employers can help as well by ensuring employees who have just returned from China stay at home under leave of absence (LOA), he said.
"If anyone in the office is sick, employers should immediately ask them to see a doctor, and stay at home to recover."
Mr Wong said many Singaporeans have been "quietly helping" their fellow citizens, including a resident who declined to collect his masks because he wanted his allocation to be given to others who need it more.
"Over the weekend, we’ve all seen residents spontaneously come forward, including parents and their children, to volunteer to man the masks collection points as well as to distribute the masks to the homes of their more vulnerable neighbours, especially those with mobility issues," he said.
This comes after reports of landlords chasing out tenants on home quarantine or LOAs, people hoarding and profiteering from the sale of masks, and the emergence of undesirable sentiment both online and on the ground towards Chineses nationals.
Mr Wong said he was glad that such "ugly behaviours" are not representative of the "vast majority" of Singaporeans.
He pointed out that many Singaporeans have come forward to support those who are affected, including the crew of Scoot flight TR121 who volunteered to fly back the 92 Singaporeans from Wuhan despite the risk to themselves.
NUS and NTU students are also supporting their friends on LOA by delivering them food and welfare packs with breakfast items and snacks, he said.
"At NUS, students are even organising a 24-hour e-gaming tournament to keep those on LOA occupied," he added.
Mr Wong said this "Singapore spirit" will see the country through the "challenging" situation, even as questions on how it might develop and how long it will last remain.
"But I am confident that we will succeed in this fight, if we stand united – as an effective Government, a cohesive people and a resolute nation," he stated.
Mr Wong also reiterated his call for Singaporeans to stand united in the fight against the virus.
"In a situation like this, fear is sometimes as great a threat to us as the disease itself," he added. "We must never allow such fear to paralyse our society."