Singapore Red Cross raises $6m for COVID-19 relief efforts in China

Nicholas Yong
Assistant News Editor
Red Cross Society of China personnel in Wuhan, China. PHOTO: Red Cross Singapore

SINGAPORE — Two weeks after the Singapore Red Cross (SRC) launched a public appeal for donations to assist with novel coronavirus (COVID-19) relief efforts in China, the humanitarian organisation has raised more than $6 million, aided by a $1 million injection from the government.

The emergency response aid, which will be delivered by its partners the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and World Vision, is expected to benefit more than 100,000 residents in the Middle Kingdom.

Within the next few days, the first tranche of aid worth $2,260,000 - consisting of essential personal protective equipment (PPE) such as surgical masks and protection goggles - will begin flowing to, among others, three hospitals in Hubei province.

TongJi Hospital and Union Hospital, both of Tongji Medical College, as well as Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University, are at the very forefront of the fight against the virus, said SRC Secretary General Benjamin William at a media briefing on Wednesday (19 February). “They face very challenging circumstances,” said William, who noted that the aid will help more than 1,000 severely ill patients and almost 30,000 more.

The funds will also go towards other healthcare workers and providers, as well as the distribution of hygiene items and communication of health messages to seven social welfare homes in Tianjin and Nanning. In addition, the money will support other areas of intervention such as risk communication, community engagement and sanitation and hygiene.

The aid will be implemented over a period of five months till June. SRC has deployed two individuals to IFRC regional offices in Kuala Lumpur and Beijing to coordinate the implementation of aid projects.

“But the needs on the ground are growing, and so are the resources needed to respond to this need. The situation is quite bad in many parts of China,” said William, who also paid tribute to the “outpouring of support” from individuals and organisations in Singapore.

William noted that the PPE items being shipped have been identified by the Chinese as “urgently needed” on the ground and are “globally in shortage”. The IFRC is relying on its global network to procure such items.

Latest figures indicate that some 72,000 people have been infected in China, with more than 1,850 killed by the disease. Hubei province remains the most badly affected, accounting for more than 59,000 confirmed cases. As of 14 February, at least 48 cities and four provinces have also issued official lockdown notices of varying degrees.

In Singapore, there has been a total of 81 confirmed cases, with 29 patients discharged as of Tuesday. Four remain in critical condition.

Blood stock in Singapore remains low

Singapore Red Cross secretary general Benjamin William addresses reporters at Red Cross House on Wednesday, 19 February 2020. PHOTO: Nicholas Yong/Yahoo News Singapore

William also urged young and healthy individuals in Singapore to continue coming forward as blood donors, following a weekend appeal by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) that saw a surge in donors at blood banks. The Republic’s blood stock had dropped to critical levels in recent weeks, partly due to the Lunar New Year festive period and exacerbated by the outbreak.

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung and Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin both put out Facebook appeals for donors to give blood, while Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu posted last Sunday that she donated blood at the Clementi Community Centre in response to the appeal.

There was “tremendous response” from the public over the weekend, but William pointed out that the current blood supply remains low. According to the SRC website, the supply of A+, B- and O- blood is still low, while A-, B+, O+ and AB- blood remains at critical levels.

Some 400 units of blood are used each day in Singapore. Out of more than 4 million Singapore residents, there are some 75,000 blood donors in the country, representing just 1.87 per cent. Of these donors, 37 per cent are regulars.

“Blood donation is a national need,” noted William. “So what we are hoping is that the public continues to respond, come forward so that we can move all the blood stocks to the green zone.”

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