SINGAPORE: National Development Minister Lawrence Wong teared up in Parliament on Wednesday (Mar 25) as he thanked healthcare workers and other Singaporeans who have contributed to the fight against the COVID-19 outbreak.
Mr Wong, who co-chairs a multi-ministry task force to tackle the coronavirus, was delivering a ministerial statement in which he provided updates on the recent tightening of border controls and stricter measures to prevent further local transmission.
Towards the end of his 30-minute speech, Mr Wong noted how “the best of Singaporeans” have been on display during these difficult times and became emotional.
READ: ‘Only at the beginning of a very long fight’: Lawrence Wong says Singapore will continue to review COVID-19 measures
He cited examples of how volunteers from the Youth Corps Singapore have been conducting door-to-door visits with the elderly to share personal hygiene and safety tips.
Other groups, including the Singapore Red Cross, have stepped up their befriending calls to the seniors, while many individuals have taken it upon themselves to prepare and donate care packs and essential items such as masks and hand sanitisers to vulnerable groups.
Meanwhile, healthcare workers on the front line have made many sacrifices while working tirelessly to care for patients.
Public officials from various government agencies have also been working round the clock to put out communication materials on new measures and ensuring smooth implementation, he said.
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These groups have been “working flat out” to fight the virus outbreak, said Mr Wong.
“Not everything they do is visible to the public eye but I can tell you that they are working round the clock and it’s incredible what they have been able to achieve, especially given the quick turnaround time,” said the minister.
“From time to time, there will be public feedback (and) public complaints. They take all of these in their stride,” he continued.
“If there are lapses they try to rectify them as quickly as possible and I hope the public will cooperate too.”
Mr Wong also mentioned the unsung heroes in industries such as cleaning, security, airport management, media, hotels, food and beverage (F&B), transport that provide services to Singaporeans.
“(They are) all still going strong and keeping their spirits high,” said Mr Wong.
“There are many Singaporeans who have stepped up in their own ways looking after one another and caring for our fellow Singaporeans. Words are not sufficient to express our appreciation for …” said Mr Wong, as he choked up, unable to finish his sentence.
He paused to take a sip of water, and attempted to finish the sentence again but was unable to.
Looking visibly emotional, Mr Wong took a step back from the rostrum to compose himself.
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu passed him a piece of tissue paper, and he took off his glasses and dabbed his eyes.
He took several more sips of water, before saying “please give me a minute”.
After composing himself, the minister continued: “Words are not sufficient to express our appreciation for so many Singaporeans going all out to fight the virus.
“And I just want to say a big thank you to everyone who is doing their part,” he said, his voice still shaking.
He later said that Singapore remains “at the beginning of a very long fight” against the COVID-19 outbreak, which could continue for many more months until the end of the year and perhaps even beyond.
He noted that there is growing uncertainty, anxiety and fear among Singaporeans, but called for all to “rally together and rise to this challenge”.
“As SG United, we can beat the virus together and we will emerge stronger and toughened after this crisis,” said Mr Wong.