SINGAPORE, Jan 24 — Making his first comments after Singapore confirmed its first case of the Wuhan virus, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong today called on the public to be calm but watchful as the authorities implement measures to “keep everybody safe and healthy”.
Lee was in Davos attending the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting when the news broke on Thursday evening. In his Chinese New Year message, Lee reiterated that it was inevitable that the virus would make its way to the Republic, given the high volume of international travel in Singapore.
“But we are well prepared, because we have been gearing up for such a situation ever since we dealt with Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome) in 2003,” said Lee.
He added that the Ministry of Health has activated plans to counter the spread of the Wuhan virus, “which so far does not appear to be as deadly as Sars was”.
Apart from the new coronavirus emerging in China, Lee noted the other “sobering” headlines across the globe — floods in Jakarta, drought in Thailand, bushfires in Australia, turbulence in the Middle East, as well as protests in Hong Kong and France.
“Chinese New Year this year comes amid anxiety around the world,” he said. “We wish these societies well as they heal and recover. We also give thanks that Singapore enjoys peace and stability that lets us gather, as we do every year, to celebrate Chinese New Year in the warm company of friends and family.”
Returning to a familiar theme in his Chinese New Year messages over the years, Lee stressed the importance of family.
“Our families are the most important people in our lives. They are the first ones whom we share good news with,” said Lee, who was making his way home from Davos today and would miss reunion dinner with his family.
“When times are hard, we turn for comfort and support to our parents, spouses, siblings, and later our children.”
He added: “Even if our extended families do not all live together, most of us still keep close ties with uncles and aunts, cousins and nephews, and of course grandparents and grandchildren.”
Strong families make a strong nation, he reiterated. “Singapore should be a society where families are celebrated and supported, especially young families starting out,” he said.
He noted that many of the Government’s recent initiatives have this aim in mind, such as increasing preschool subsidies, promoting flexible work arrangements and introducing full subject-based banding in secondary schools, which would reduce stress on students and parents.
“In Singapore, as long as you work hard, you can be confident of a better life for yourselves and your children,” he said.
“I hope these moves will encourage more young couples to start new families, or add to their growing families. Choosing a life partner or having a child is a deeply personal decision. But from my own experience, there is no greater joy than hearing the laughter of our children and grandchildren, especially on festive occasions like Chinese New Year.” — TODAY