Dear fellow Singaporeans,
I wish all Christians a Happy Easter. The observance of Good Friday and the celebration of Easter remind us that there is always hope, even in the darkest of times.
Covid-19 may not be as lethal as SARS, but it is far more infectious. It has rapidly become a pandemic across the entire world. Many countries around the world, even mature economies, have struggled as the exponential increases in the number of infected patients have overwhelmed their advanced healthcare systems. We are still in the early phase of this pandemic. It will take more than a year for a vaccine or therapeutic breakthrough to become available. The economic and geostrategic aftermath will be even deeper and longer.
In Singapore, the spike in locally transmitted cases over the past two weeks is a stark reminder of how things can change quickly in an epidemic. Hence our need to implement the current “circuit breaker”. A “circuit breaker” is only effective if ALL of us collectively and resolutely break the chains of transmission at the SAME time.
I have faith that Singaporeans recognise that all of us have a role to play, by keeping social contact to a minimum – first and foremost by staying at home unless engaged in essential services. This will be very difficult to do, but we must endure this short-term pain to ensure Covid-19 is contained.
Even as we look out for our health, there are understandable anxieties over our economic prospects, especially with a global recession and many workplaces pausing operations for a month. This is why Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat rolled out three successive budgets in less than two months. He has provided S$60 billion worth of measures to help families, workers, and businesses ride out this storm.
At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we have made a solemn commitment – that we will leave no Singaporean behind. Since the outbreak in January, the Government has worked hard to arrange the return of Singaporeans who want to come home, including from China, Malaysia, the United Kingdom, Peru, Egypt, Iran, and Nepal. We have done so by working closely with neighbouring countries and with local authorities, with many of these Singaporeans facing either lockdown scenarios or a cessation in commercial flights. It will not be easy to bring all our brothers and sisters back given the global shutdown of flights and connectivity. It may take some time, but we will never give up. Citizenship has its privileges.
We will continue to be busy on the global stage. Just last week, Singapore, Ghana, Indonesia, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland put forward a resolution at the United Nations entitled “Global Solidarity to Fight Covid-19”, which underscored the need for a multilateral approach to deal with Covid-19. Global pandemics cannot be solved unilaterally, as a reservoir of infection anywhere in the world can quickly emerge as a global threat.
We will cooperate closely with our neighbours. We are deeply interconnected with Malaysia, with Indonesia, and with the rest of ASEAN. We have sent medical supplies and equipment to many in the region, including China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, the Philippines and Myanmar. These include diagnostic tests and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) machines for the detection of Covid-19. We are all in the same boat – so there are strong reasons to share the fruits of applied research, and also coordinate our measures.
Covid-19 is likely to be the defining crisis of our generation. It is not just a public health or economic problem. It is an acid test of the quality of our healthcare system, our standard of governance, and strength of our social capital.
The greatest advantage we have in Singapore is trust. Our people trust our Government. We are able to respond decisively. Our people act quickly in a unified and effective manner. We look out for each other. I have been deeply encouraged by the sense of solidarity, civic-mindedness, and the deep sense of duty of our people on the frontlines willingly taking on personal risks for the greater good.
A new generation of Singaporeans will emerge – stronger, more resilient, more compassionate, more united and with an even deeper reservoir of trust.
Dr Vivian Balakrishnan
People’s Action Party
10 April 2020