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New ways for Singaporeans to offer help and support amid outbreak of COVID-19: Desmond Lee

SINGAPORE: Amid the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, many Singaporeans have stepped forward in various ways to do their part, from showing their appreciation for workers on the frontline to volunteering to help the more vulnerable in the society.

This outpouring of support from individual Singaporeans and organisations is encouraging and heartening, said Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee on Wednesday (Feb 12) at a press conference organised by the multi-ministry task force tackling the virus outbreak here.

READ: 3 new cases of COVID-19 in Singapore, including DBS employee, 2 church members

Following feedback that it might be useful to have a “centralised place” to coordinate the ground-up offers of help, Mr Lee said the Government will help to do so and channel these support and resources in two ways.

This will help to ensure that resources reach the healthcare workers and people who need it the most, he said.

The first is through the Courage Fund, which was set up in April 2003 as a fund-raising effort to help victims of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), healthcare workers and their families, as well as the wider community affected by serious infectious diseases.

Mr Lee said this fund will now be used to support patients, healthcare workers and the wider community who may need additional support beyond what the Government and social service agencies can provide during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

It will serve as a government-based avenue for people who wish to contribute to various efforts, said the minister, adding that more details will be announced.

This will be facilitated by the National Council of Social Service and Community Chest, he said.

Thus far, the CapitaLand Hope Foundation and the President’s Challenge have donated S$300,000 and S$250,000 respectively.

In a Facebook post later on Wednesday, President Halimah Yacob said the President’s Challenge has been mobilising community resources to divert more help to those who may be more susceptible.

"I strongly urge the community to support this fund. It is challenging times like this that will truly define who we are as a nation," she wrote.


The Government will also be setting up a centralised platform to help “convene various ground-up efforts”.

More information will be shared shortly, the minister said.

“We will establish a centralised platform to enable ground-up groups, partners and Government-led initiatives to be publicised so that people can step forward and say, this is an area I’ll like to play a part, that’s an area I like to support, where can I go, what can I do and who can I contact,” he told reporters. 

“This will enable our civic partners, NGOs, community groups and ground-up groups of people to step forward and to play a part.”

Mr Lee noted that there have been various ground-up initiatives thus far, including an “Operations Hands On” project started by two outdoor camp operators, FutuReady and Innotrek.

These two operators had been impacted by the cancellations of school camps, but have decided to come together to distribute hand sanitisers and masks to the elderly and vulnerable in their community, while sharing important public health messages.

Members of the Youth Corps Singapore will also be mobilising themselves to help soup kitchen Willing Hearts to distribute meals on Feb 13 and 14. 

This comes as charities and social service agencies here have been facing a shortage of volunteers amid the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, said Mr Lee.

READ: ‘Not enough manpower to get food to people in need’: Food charities hit as coronavirus measures ramped up

Ride-hailing operator Grab also announced on Wednesday that it would begin a new service that offers a dedicated 24-hour service for healthcare professionals travelling from work.

The service, called GrabCare, will begin its pilot on Friday for healthcare professionals working at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) and Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH). 

Grab has plans to to expand the service to eventually allow for rides from homes to hospitals and to widen the pool of participating hospitals, it said. 

READ: Grab to pilot service offering round-the-clock rides home for healthcare professionals

Describing these as “just the tip of the iceberg” of ground-up efforts spearheaded by Singaporeans, Mr Lee said: “It’s not just about what we do in a crisis, but how we respond (as) Government and people.” 

“Through these actions, we hope that more Singaporeans who are focused very much on the situation can also find avenues to lay a part, contribute, join hands in this effort to tackle this situation.

“If we support our frontline workers instead of shunning them; if we stand by them … and give them all the help we can muster, i think we can we come out of this that much stronger,” he added. 

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Source: CNA/sk


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