SINGAPORE: Health Minister Gan Kim Yong on Monday (Dec 28) thanked healthcare workers for playing a pivotal role in the nation's fight against COVID-19 during an "extraordinary" and "gruelling" year.
"I want to thank you for taking Singapore this far in our journey," said Mr Gan in a letter to healthcare workers posted on the Ministry of Health's (MOH) Facebook page.
"That Singapore's COVID-19 fatality rate is amongst the lowest in the world is by no means a stroke of luck. It is a testament of your hard work, perseverance and sacrifice."
As of Monday, Singapore has reported a total of 58,529 COVID-19 cases, with 29 deaths from complications due to the infection.
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Recalling Singapore's first imported coronavirus case reported on Jan 23, Mr Gan said the nation has come a long way since.
"From the initial days of anxiety and uncertainty, we quickly improvised and adapted our structures and processes to find novel ways of caring for every patient, COVID-19 or otherwise," said the co-chair of the COVID-19 multi-ministry task force.
This included deploying medical teams to community care facilities and workers' dormitories, augmenting the healthcare workforce and working with partners in the public and private sectors.
At the peak of the outbreak, Singapore saw a "staggering" record of more than 1,400 new cases a day in April.
"But giving up was never an option," said Mr Gan.
"As a nation, we pressed on, and through a colossal effort, with every Singaporean playing their part, we eventually managed to bring our local transmissions down to its low levels today, with zero cases on some days."
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He added that while the year was at times filled with "despair and hopelessness", it was also "defined by a strong sense of mission, purpose and camaraderie" to keep Singapore safe.
"We have an excellent healthcare system and an outstanding healthcare workforce who never wavered in your commitment to keep every patient safe," with many going beyond the call of duty, said Mr Gan.
But while there is hope in the global developments around a COVID-19 vaccine, the minister cautioned that "vaccination is not a silver bullet that can bring a quick end to the pandemic".
"It will be some time before the storm will pass," he said.
READ: COVID-19 - Government accepts committee's recommendations on vaccine strategy, to begin vaccinating healthcare workers from Dec 30
CONTINUED VIGILANCE NEEDED IN PHASE 3: LAWRENCE WONG
As Singapore enters Phase 3 of its reopening on Monday, the public should continue to comply with existing measures and not let its guard down, said co-chair of the multi-ministry task force Mr Lawrence Wong.
"Around the world, some experts are already warning about a post-seasonal surge in cases, as people are ignoring restrictions and flocking together for festive celebrations," said Mr Wong in a Facebook post.
"We must not allow that to happen here. The new and more infectious strain from the UK also signals the need for continued vigilance."
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He added that some residents continue to disregard the rules, highlighting those who book multiple tables in restaurants or hold large parties in their homes.
"We will step up enforcement checks, and will take firm actions against these breaches, even for first-time offences," said Mr Wong, who is also the education minister.
These actions include business outlet closures and fines for individuals, he said. Work pass holders who flout the rules also risk having their passes revoked.
"So let's stay focused and get through the next few months safely, until we are able to get everyone in Singapore vaccinated," said Mr Wong.
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