SINGAPORE: Soldiers from the Singapore Armed Forces, as well as officers from the police and the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), paid tribute to healthcare workers as Singapore’s annual National Day Parade came to the heartlands on Sunday (Aug 9).
The sweltering weather was no deterrent to spectators in Sengkang, where residents had gathered at an open field overlooking the Tampines Expressway hours ahead of 9am, when six members of the Red Lions were scheduled to begin their descent.
Some came prepared with picnic mats and foldable chairs, while safe distancing ambassadors walked among the crowd, reminding people to stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
At 9am, the crowd cheered as the Red Lions, who could be seen overhead, deployed their parachutes after they leapt from a Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) C-130 Hercules aircraft.
This is the first National Day where the crowd-favourite skydivers performed their display in the heartlands, with organisers bringing a scaled-down parade closer to people’s homes because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Sengkang resident Edward Kok, who had come to watch the Red Lions with his friends, said he appreciated the chance to catch them up close, even managing to take a photo with some members of the skydiving team.
Having the annual celebrations in the heartlands gave residents a chance to get together, said the 53-year-old commodities manager.
The Red Lions made their way to the nearby Sengkang General Hospital - together with other personnel from the Singapore Armed Forces - to salute the healthcare workers at the frontlines of Singapore’s fight against COVID-19.
Since the pandemic began earlier this year, Sengkang General Hospital has been supporting migrant workers at the nearby S11 Dormitory @ Punggol, the country’s largest COVID-19 cluster. On Saturday, the health ministry declared the cluster at the S11 dormitory closed.
Across the island in Jurong East, another team of Red Lions saluted healthcare workers at the Ng Teng Fong General Hospital.
Six of the RSAF’s F-15 fighter jets also paid tribute to healthcare workers, flying over eight hospitals in the morning.
At 11am, 13 vehicles from the Singapore Armed Forces, the Singapore Police Force and the SCDF - forming the contingent travelling the Northeast route for the mobile column this year - also stopped along Sengkang East Road for about 10 minutes to salute frontline workers at the hospital.
Speaking at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong thanked the nation’s healthcare workers, noting they had “faced tremendous challenges and made many personal sacrifices” since the pandemic started.
Mr Dinesh Krishnojirao Shinde, together with his wife and young daughter, waited at an overhead bridge near the hospital to catch a glimpse of the mobile column.
The 39-year-old engineer said it was “very meaningful” to see the mobile column up close, and when cheers rang out for the frontline and essential workers.
Elsewhere, residents also gathered to watch as the mobile column made its way through various estates, including Woodlands, Lakeside, Bedok and Ang Mo Kio.
Ang Mo Kio was one of the stops along the South Route for the mobile column, which saw 14 assets travelling from Clementi to Yio Chu Kang.
From noon, members of the public gathered along Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3 to catch sight of the vehicles, which included the police’s new fast response car.
Ang Mo Kio resident Florence Ng, who was waiting at an overhead bridge since 12.15pm, said she was happy to see part of this year’s parade up close, although she had hoped to be able to see more of the features from previous years.
“I was hoping to see the floats, besides the military vehicles,” said the 53-year-old.
This year, the mobile column - comprising 66 assets from the various forces - traversed 200km along five routes in Singapore’s heartland estates.