Support healthcare workers, don't shun them: Gan Kim Yong
Health Minister calls on everyone to come together as number of coronavirus infections hit the 50 mark
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong has called on Singaporeans to rally around healthcare workers instead of shunning them.
He said at a press conference yesterday that he is aware that some people are wary of healthcare workers and shun nurses and doctors in public places.
While he understands Singaporeans' concerns and anxieties over the coronavirus situation, Mr Gan said: "I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to Singaporeans not to do so.
"In fact, let us come together to show our support for them, and to support their work, so they continue to take care of our patients and families and our loved ones."
Mr Gan, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force to tackle the Covid-19 situation here, also announced three new cases yesterday, bringing the total to 50 so far.
Two of the men worked at the Grace Assembly of God churches in Bukit Batok and Tanglin, and the third works at DBS Bank in the Marina Bay Financial Centre.
Encouraging people to show front-line staff their well-deserved support, Mr Gan said: "Sometimes a kind word or a warm greeting will go a long way to make them feel appreciated, and give them a morale boost to continue the fight."
His remarks came as reports of healthcare workers being discriminated against surfaced online, such as nurses being told to take the stairs instead of the lift, or to leave the train.
Some healthcare workers took to social media to defend themselves and their colleagues.
Touching on the subject at a Singapore Civil Defence Force event yesterday, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and Health Amrin Amin also noted that ambulance drivers buying food in common areas were told to leave.
"These are very unfortunate incidents... We need to condemn the disgraceful acts by a small minority," he said.
Paying tribute to general practitioners, Mr Gan said the Health Ministry (MOH) will continue to support private doctors, including specialists.
One million masks will be set aside for them after feedback about concerns over supply as they need the masks to protect themselves, their staff and patients.
'PART OF OUR TEAM'
Mr Gan assured them that they would get the necessary supplies "because they are a part of our team".
Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee, who was also at the press conference, said healthcare institutions and hospitals have received an outpouring of support from Singaporeans and organisations.
The Courage Fund, set up by healthcare institutions 17 years ago to support people affected by the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), will be used to support patients, healthcare workers and communities in need of additional support.
Mr Lee also said 90 per cent of drivers from private-hire firm Grab were keen to join a new service called Grabcare to "help our healthcare workers get to and from healthcare facilities".
The service will start tomorrow for those working at Tan Tock Seng Hospital and the National Centre for Infectious Diseases, he said.
A centralised platform will also be made available to consolidate ground-up efforts to help healthcare workers in need.
Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the task force, said the panic-buying situation over the weekend has stabilised, with the major retailers expected to return to normal stock levels in a day or two.
The panic-buying was sparked by online pictures of empty supermarkets shelves and rumours after the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition alert was raised to orange last Friday.
Mr Wong said: "In today's world of social media, fear, uncertainty and panic spreads a lot faster... than the truth, which is boring and nobody wants to share."
Mr Wong said many Singaporeans have asked how the situation will unfold in the coming days and weeks.
"And the honest answer is - it is still too early to tell. We really cannot say whether it will get better, whether it will get worse, what sort of situation is going to unfold," he said.
Though reports out of China say the outbreak there may hit a peak this month and be over by April, Mr Wong said more cases could emerge here as "Singapore steps up its surveillance and does more testing of cases".
Mr Gan said six more patients have recovered and been discharged, making a total of 15. But eight are in critical condition and in intensive care.
He added that most infected patients will recover but warned: "Some may get seriously ill, and a small number may succumb to the infection ultimately.
"We have to be prepared for the worst."
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