Singapore's Total Defence key to fight against COVID-19 outbreak: Maliki Osman

A security guard wearing a face mask standing outside the Funan Mall. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)
A security guard wearing a face mask standing outside the Funan Mall. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — The COVID-19 outbreak has been testing Singapore’s strength as a nation, said Senior Minister Of State for Defence Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman on Tuesday (2 March).

Speaking at the Ministry of Defence’s Committee of Supply 2020 debate, the minister highlighted that measures undertaken by segments across the country ranging from businesses, religious leaders to ordinary citizens to fight the outbreak exemplify the ethos of Total Defence.

In the past month, Singapore has seen how fear of the virus led to panic-buying of household essentials, hoarding and profiteering from the sale of masks, and the shunning of healthcare workers, noted Dr Maliki.

“At the same time, we came across countless heart-warming examples of how Singaporeans have displayed quiet strength and resolve to fight this crisis together – residents leaving hand sanitisers and spare masks in common areas for others, and university students bringing food for their classmates who are on leave of absence,” said Dr Maliki.

Religious organisations such as the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) have also provided guidance. Muis said in an advisory that Islam excuses those who are unwell from attending congregational prayers, including Friday prayers.

“Muslims were also advised to set aside the practice of salam, or shaking hands, to ensure that they do not transmit the virus,” said the minister.

Other temples and churches are also scaling back or cancelling regular services and urging followers to watch their services online instead, he noted.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore indefinitely suspended public Masses from 15 February and some churches have adopted live-streaming for Sunday Mass.

Measures announced during Budget 2020 to assist business affected by the virus outbreak are also key in the deployment of Total Defence, said Dr Maliki.

“It is heartening to know that businesses are exemplifying economic defence by implementing business continuity plans, sending workers for re-training, and following calls to disinfect working areas regularly.

“Companies like Singapore Airlines, SingTel and SMRT are also finding ways to avoid retrenching their workers by cutting capital spending, operating costs and wages for managerial staff. Hopefully, these measures will provide workers with greater job assurance, and help them cope and emerge stronger from the difficult period.”

Firms such as CapitaLand and Changi Airport have also offered rental relief for retailers hard hit by the outbreak.

Dr Maliki noted that the outbreak has also led to the spread of fake news, with false information on the closure of schools and an MRT station making rounds.

“When you receive messages or unsubstantiated information over WhatsApp or other online platforms, do not forward or circulate them. Always check the information against official sources, like the government websites and official news releases. If you are unsure, don’t spread the information.”

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