It was about one year ago that Covid-19 was first beginning to spread in Singapore and the world.
One year on, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong delivered his Chinese New Year greetings recounting the terrible cost of the pandemic, but with a glimmering of hope for the future.
"The warmth, comfort and support of our families have given all of us strength to get through the most trying times of Covid-19. Keeping our families safe from Covid-19 has been on all of our minds," PM Lee said.
"Protecting our people, especially our seniors, has been the government’s top priority in this pandemic."
Stabilised the situation, despite economic cost
PM Lee added that the government and the country had gone "all out" to contain the spread of the pandemic and prevent the healthcare system from being overwhelmed, despite the economic cost.
Due to the combined efforts, the situation has stabilised, and Singapore avoided "disastrous outbreaks" as seen in other countries, and most of the economy has restarted.
"As we welcome the Year of the Ox, we can look back and give thanks that we have come through the Year of the Rat, not without trouble, but relatively unscathed," PM Lee said.
The multi ministry task force recently announced several restrictions in the run-up to the Chinese New Year festivities.
A household can only entertain eight visitors a day.
Diners must wear masks while tossing the traditional yusheng, and the shouting of auspicious cheers is also prohibited in restaurants.
Enforcement checks will also be stepped up, both at F&B outlets and residences.
PM Lee said these stricter measures are necessary, as new waves of Covid-19 infections were seen in January following end-of-year celebrations, as people let their guard down.
He acknowledged that the restrictions could somewhat dampen the atmosphere, but reminded the public that the precautions are necessary to keep people safe.
Vaccines bring hope
PM Lee said the Year of the Ox brings hope, as Covid-19 vaccines are rolled out in 2021.
About 250,000 people have received their first dose of the vaccine, prioritising frontline and essential workers, and now the elderly.
If supplies come in as scheduled, Singapore will have enough vaccines for everyone who wants one by the end of the year.
PM Lee urged everyone to get a vaccine, as once enough of the public is vaccinated, Singapore can achieve herd immunity.
But in the meantime, the public should abide by safe distancing measures, even if they have been vaccinated.
As Singapore celebrates Chinese New Year, PM Lee expressed his thanks to essential workers who make personal sacrifices to keep the country running through the festive period.
This group includes healthcare workers, transport staff, delivery riders, cleaners, migrant workers and more.
He also said that many Malay, Indian and Eurasian workers covering for their Chinese colleagues deserve "heart-felt thanks".
"I wish all Singaporeans good health, and a very happy Chinese New Year," said PM Lee.
Top image from PMO.