Year in Review 2020: Top 10 news searches in Singapore

Amir Hussain
·Senior Reporter
·10-min read
The Singapore government is on track to secure COVID-19 vaccines for all Singaporeans and long-term residents by 2021. (Photo: Getty)
The Singapore government is on track to secure COVID-19 vaccines for all Singaporeans and long-term residents by 2021. (Photo: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — From the novel coronavirus situation in Singapore and politics across the Causeway, to President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral win over incumbent Donald Trump in the US – here are the top 10 news events and personalities that dominated searches by Yahoo News Singapore readers in 2020.

1. Singapore COVID-19

Undoubtedly the single most pressing concern all over the world this year, Singapore’s COVID-19 concerns took a major upturn as the government took the unprecedented step of shutting its borders to all short-term travellers in mid-March.

The closure was announced a day after the country recorded its first two fatalities from the virus and with total infections rising past 430 some two months after the first case was confirmed.

But with increasing transmissions within the community, a circuit breaker was imposed shortly after, beginning from 7 April and lasting till 1 June. On 14 April, wearing a face mask in public was made mandatory.

Restrictions were gradually eased over the course of the year and, as the number of locally transmitted cases continued to remained low, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Monday (14 December) announced that Phase 3 of Singapore’s reopening will begin in two weeks’ time.

The government is also on track to secure vaccines for all Singaporeans and long-term residents by 2021, Lee said. The vaccines will be made free but not compulsory.

As of Wednesday (16 December), the tally of cases stands at 58,353. Apart from 29 patients who have died from COVID-19 complications, 15 others who tested positive for the virus were determined to have died from unrelated causes, including three whose deaths were attributed to a heart attack and another four, whose deaths were attributed to coronary heart disease.

US President Donald Trump removes his mask at the White House after returning from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on 5 October, having spent three days hospitalised for COVID-19. (Photo: Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump removes his mask at the White House after returning from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on 5 October, having spent three days hospitalised for COVID-19. (Photo: Getty Images)

2. Donald Trump

Amid campaigning for the US presidential election in early October, outgoing United States President Donald Trump, 74, tested positive for COVID-19, reportedly with fever, chills, cough and congestion.

He was admitted to hospital and given an experimental antibody treatment along with the antiviral drug remdesivir and the anti-inflammatory steroid dexamethasone.

One of the two antibodies in the cocktail used to treat him was developed using blood samples from three patients in Singapore, according to the Asian Scientist magazine.

The combination was developed by US-based biotech firm Regeneron, which was able to clone the antibodies from both “humanised” mice and recovered COVID-19 patients to produce a reliable source of antibodies.

Asian Scientist reported that, while the humanised mice were based on a technology owned by Regeneron, the human plasma used was supplied by three Singapore patients through an agreement with Singapore’s National Centre for Infectious Diseases.

Trump went on to lose the election to former US senator and two-term vice-president Joe Biden by a margin of 306 electoral college votes to 232. Biden also won the popular vote, but Trump has yet to concede defeat.

3. Singapore Budget 2020

As COVID-19 stymied Singapore’s economic growth and impacted livelihoods, the country unveiled an unprecedented four Budgets for its current financial year, bringing the total of pandemic-related measures to almost $93 million.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat unveiled the $6.4 billion Unity Budget in February, the $48 billion Resilience Budget in March, the $5.1 billion Solidarity Budget in April and the $33 billion Fortitude Budget in May.

“Together with the Unity, Resilience and Solidarity Budgets, we are dedicating $92.9 billion or 19.2 per cent of our GDP (gross domestic product), to support our people in this battle,” he said. The new Budget funds will also take Singapore’s overall budget deficit for 2020 to $74.3 billion, or 15.4 per cent of its GDP.

To fund the Fortitude Budget, the government dipped into Singapore’s past reserves for the second time in the financial year. While $21 billion had been drawn for the Resilience and Solidarity Budgets, another $31 billion was tapped for the Fortitude Budget.

NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his wife Vanessa Laine Bryant with their daughters Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant and Natalia Diamante Bryant in this file photo from 26 February 2018. (Photo: Getty Images)
NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his wife Vanessa Laine Bryant with their daughters Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant and Natalia Diamante Bryant in this file photo from 26 February 2018. (Photo: Getty Images)

4. Kobe Bryant

NBA legend Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash in January along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna while they were on the way to a basketball match in which she was to play.

Bryant was 41. He played his entire 20-year career for the Los Angeles Lakers and won five NBA championships before retiring in 2016. Among his accolades: two-time NBA Finals MVP; league MVP in 2008; 18-time NBA All-Star; and fourth-leading scorer in NBA history. He earned more than US$323 million in NBA salary, excluding endorsements.

Seven other people were on board the helicopter which crashed into a hillside and caught fire. There were no survivors.

Bryant fathered four daughters with wife Vanessa: Gianna, Natalia, 17, Bianca, 3, and Capri, who was born in June last year.

5. Mahathir Mohamad

Malaysia's nonagenarian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad resigned unexpectedly in late February, plunging the country into political turmoil less than two years after he returned to office – after scoring a stunning landmark election victory in which the Barisan Nasional coalition that held power since independence was defeated.

He remained as interim prime minister but was replaced soon after by current Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

Three months after the resignation, his political party Bersatu sacked Mahathir, his son, along with three others.

Mahathir then formed a new political party dubbed Pejuang in August, a month after he turned 95, with the veteran politician and two-time prime minister hardly showing any signs of slowing down. He remains MP for Langkawi in the Lower House or Dewan Rakyat.

Riot policemen attempt to disperse protestors on China's National Day on 1 October 2020. (Photo: Getty Images)
Riot policemen attempt to disperse protestors on China's National Day on 1 October 2020. (Photo: Getty Images)

6. Hong Kong protests

Pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong started off the year with a huge rally that saw mass arrests and clashes between police and demonstrators, as the latter sought to maintain a nearly seven-month-long momentum which saw millions pour out onto the streets.

The territory’s biggest political crisis was sparked last year by a proposal to allow extraditions to mainland China, but quickly morphed into a larger revolt against what many feared was Beijing’s tightening control over the semi-autonomous city.

Among the protestors’ demands are fully free elections in the city, an inquiry into alleged police misconduct against demonstrators and amnesty for those arrested.

China and the city’s administration have refused to accede to the demands, with Beijing instead passing a national security law on Hong Kong in June, eliciting concern from some countries and rights groups. In August, the US placed sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials, including city leader Carrie Lam.

7. Malaysia lockdown

In March, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced a two-week nation-wide lockdown to slow the spread of COVID-19 following a sharp rise in infections. The lockdown was later extended several times, with restrictions gradually eased from May under a Conditional Movement Control Order and then a Recovery Movement Control Order the next month.

The initial lockdown came on short notice and saw thousands of Malaysians workers scramble to pack their belongings in Johor Bahru and return to Singapore before it came into effect.

In the wake of Muhyiddin’s announcement, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing assured citizens that the flow of goods and food supplies would continue during the lockdown across the Causeway.

The control order is currently scheduled to end on 31 December.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivers a speech during a ceremony to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the country’s ruling party in Pyongyang on 10 October. (Photo: AP)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivers a speech during a ceremony to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the country’s ruling party in Pyongyang on 10 October. (Photo: AP)

8. Kim Jong-un

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, 36, went off the radar in April, raising global speculation about his health and the possibility of political instability in the reclusive nuclear-capable country.

He conspicuously missed the birthday celebration for his late grandfather Kim Il Sung on 15 April, the country’s most important holiday, for the first time since taking power in 2011.

In early May, Kim made an uneventful public reappearance at a new fertiliser factory near Pyongyang. He previously presided over a Workers’ Party meeting to discuss COVID-19 on 11 April.

Then in October, Kim appeared emotional while speaking at a massive military parade in Pyongyang to mark the 75th anniversary of the Workers’ Party. He paid tribute to troops for their response to national disasters and preventing a COVID-19 outbreak, and apologised to citizens for failing to raise living standards.

9. George Floyd

In late May, African-American George Floyd, 46, died after a police officer knelt on his neck for eight minutes, sparking nation-wide and global protests against police brutality, especially towards ethnic minorities.

A video shot by a passerby of the incident showing Floyd handcuffed and lying on his stomach as the officer allegedly killed him was circulated widely online. Three other officers stood by as Floyd repeatedly cried out “I can’t breathe” and moaned in pain.

All four cops were fired a day after the incident and charged over Floyd’s death shortly after. The officer who knelt on the victim’s neck, Derek Chauvin, was charged with murder.

In the wake of the protests, which saw violent clashes between demonstrators and policemen even outside the White House, and saw curfews imposed across the US, many companies and brands including Apple, Twitter, H&M and Lululemon pledged to do their part to end systemic racism as well as to donate to anti-racism organisations.

10. Joe Biden

Former US senator and two-term vice-president Joe Biden won the US presidential race in November, beating incumbent one-term office-holder Donald Trump by a margin of 306 electoral college votes to 232.

Biden also won the popular vote with a margin of about seven million more ballots than Trump. He is the first presidential candidate to have garnered more than 80 million votes. And at the age of 78, he will be the oldest US president.

Last week, Time magazine named Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris as the publications’s “Person of the Year” – for “changing the American story, for showing that the forces of empathy are greater than the furies of division, for sharing a vision of healing in a grieving world.”

US President-elect Joe Biden speaking about the Electoral College vote certification process in Wilmington, Delaware on Monday (14 December). Presidential electors of the Electoral College gathered in state capitals across the nation that day to cast their ballots for president and vice-president. Their ballots will be formally counted during a joint session of Congress on 6 January. (Photo: Getty Images)
US President-elect Joe Biden speaking about the Electoral College vote certification process in Wilmington, Delaware on Monday (14 December). Presidential electors of the Electoral College gathered in state capitals across the nation that day to cast their ballots for president and vice-president. Their ballots will be formally counted during a joint session of Congress on 6 January. (Photo: Getty Images)

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