SINGAPORE: Singaporeans should be “calm but watchful” as the Government implements measures to “keep everybody safe and healthy” after the first confirmed case of the Wuhan virus in Singapore, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said.
Speaking in his Chinese New Year message on Friday (Jan 24), Mr Lee said the Government is “well-prepared” to deal with the new coronavirus, which has killed at least 17 people in China and sickened hundreds.
On Thursday, the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced that a 66-year-old Chinese man from Wuhan - who is in isolation and in a stable condition - was tested positive for the new coronavirus.
READ: Two more people test positive for Wuhan virus in Singapore; total of 3 confirmed cases - MOH
Speaking from Davos, where he was attending the World Economic Forum, Mr Lee said he has been closely tracking Singapore’s preparations against the virus.
“We have just had our first cases in Singapore. This was to be expected, given the high volume of international travel here,” Mr Lee said.
“But we are well prepared, because we have been gearing up for such a situation ever since we dealt with SARS in 2003.
“MOH has now activated plans to counter the spread of the virus, which so far does not appear to be as deadly as SARS was. Singaporeans should be calm but watchful as we implement measures to keep everybody safe and healthy.”
He also asked those who are taking a break during the public holiday to remember the personal sacrifices of those who are still working, including law enforcement officers, hospital staff, cleaners, transport, port and airport workers.
“Many of our Malay, Indian and Eurasian friends will be working, covering for their Chinese colleagues. We owe them our thanks,” the Prime Minister said.
STRONG FAMILIES MAKE FOR STRONG NATION
This year's Chinese New Year festivities come amid "anxiety around the world", said Mr Lee, citing examples of floods in Jakarta, drought in Thailand, the Australian bushfires, turbulence in the Middle East, protests in Hong Kong and France, and the new coronavirus in China.
"We wish these societies well as they heal and recover," he said. "We also give thanks that Singapore enjoys peace and stability that lets us … gather, as we do every year, to celebrate Chinese New Year in the warm company of friends and family."
Strong families make for a strong nation, the Prime Minister added.
"Singapore should be a society where families are celebrated and supported, especially young families starting out."
Recent government initiatives have been made with this aim in mind, he said.
These include increasing pre-school subsidies to lighten the financial load of raising a child, promoting flexible work arrangements and the introduction of full subject-based banding in secondary schools to reduce stress on students and parents.
The Prime Minister said he hoped these moves would encourage more young couples to start new families or add to existing ones.
"Choosing a life partner or having a child is a deeply personal decision," he said. "But from my own experience, there is no greater joy than hearing the laughter of our children and grandchildren, especially on festive occasions like Chinese New Year."
He talked about the importance of family and the role family members play in each other’s lives.
"When times are hard, we turn for comfort and support to our parents, spouses, siblings and later our children," he said.
"Even if our extended families do not all live together, most of us still keep close ties with uncles and aunts, cousins and nephews, and of course grandparents and grandchildren."
Mr Lee said he would celebrate Chinese New Year with the Singaporean community in Zurich before he makes his way home from Davos.
“I look forward to seeing familiar faces and hearing familiar accents, thousands of miles away from home,” the Prime Minister added.
“No matter where in the world we may be, there is something special and heart-warming that bonds Singaporeans together, and a special place in our hearts for Singapore.”
"The Year of the Rat begins a new cycle of the Chinese zodiac," he said. "We look forward to the opportunity to refresh ourselves and start anew.”
“I wish all Singaporeans a very happy and healthy Chinese New Year,” Mr Lee added.
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