Heng Swee Keat: Humbled by enormity of govt's responsibilities & inspired by S'poreans' during Covid-19

He also noted that Singaporeans aspired for a more caring society.

Matthias Ang | August 31, 2021, 08:56 PM

The government has been "greatly humbled" by the enormity of the responsibility it holds during the Covid-19 crisis, along with the support that it has received from Singaporeans, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Aug. 31.

Speaking at the launch of the book Stories Of A Pandemic (SOAP) at the National Library, Heng noted that 2020 saw an unprecedented five Budgets, with the government working closely with various stakeholders.

Heng added, "while there were different viewpoints on how best to tackle the situation, everyone rallied together”.

“This enabled us to act swiftly and decisively in a fast-evolving situation, and continue to learn and improve things as we went along”, he said.

As such, Singapore is currently in a position to emerge stronger from the crisis, he said.

Heng: "2020 was also a year that I found truly inspiring"

Heng also pointed out how 2020 was the year that he found "truly inspiring" due to frontline workers exemplifying the "Singapore spirit", with the name of his Budgets inspired by qualities that Singaporeans displayed: unity, resilience, solidarity and fortitude.

He highlighted how healthcare workers faced the challenges posed by Covid-19 in the early months of the pandemic with courage, when Singapore was still struggling to understand the nature of the virus and the healthcare system was stretched by the growing number of cases.

He also noted that many of these workers "went beyond the call of duty" by volunteering at community care facilities, on top of their regular duties.

Apart from healthcare workers, others who have served on the frontline include workers at the dormitories, checkpoints and airports, and in enforcing safe management measures.

Heng thanked them:

“Our frontline workers have been in overdrive for more than a year now. I would like to convey our heartfelt appreciation to them.

As we shift towards an endemic Covid-19, I hope that they will be able to take some time to recharge and spend time with their loved ones."

Singaporeans aspire for a more caring society

Heng said that he was "heartened" by the outpouring of support for both frontline workers as well as those who had fallen on hard times.

This brought up his point that the Emerging Stronger conversations were started in the wake of the Circuit Breaker last year so as to better understand how Covid-19 had affected people and what can be done to move forward.

In total, more than 16,900 people took part, he added.

A constant theme that came out of such conversations was how Singaporeans wanted a more caring, just and equal society, he noted.

The Singapore Together movement has also embarked on the Alliances for Action, said Heng.

These Alliances are partnerships that bring together multiple parts of society, such as companies and community groups, to tackle various issues such as youth mental well-being, enhancing support for lower-wage workers, and helping disadvantaged students and their families.

There are also alliances that are looking at tapping the potential of the digital revolution, improving the country's post-pandemic resilience, and taking advantage of the wave of green recovery in the region, the Deputy Prime Minister added.

"This way, we can move beyond a democracy of ideas, to a democracy of deeds," he said.

There were steps the government could have taken sooner

Heng acknowledged that with the benefit of hindsight, there were steps that could have been taken sooner however.

This included recommending the wearing of masks earlier in light of the prevalence of asymptomatic transmission.

He elaborated, "We would also have acted more assertively to control the spread in our migrant worker dorms."

However, Singapore on the whole has stabilised the situation, kept fatalities low and made "good progress" on vaccination, he said.

Heng concluded:

"The pandemic is not over. We must expect further twists and turns.

But if 2020 is anything to go by, I’m confident that whatever the future brings, we will emerge stronger and more united as a people."

Top photo courtesy of MCI