COVID-19 In Singapore: A Timeline Of Triumph
It's been almost a year since our lives were turned upside down by COVID-19, or, to be precise, since a 66-year-old Chinese national (a man who had travelled from Wuhan) tested positive for COVID-19 in Singapore on 23 Jan 2020 - and became "Case 1".
But in spite of the social and economic upheaval, there have emerged tales of triumph and kindness that have continually restored our faith in humanity.
From inspiring healthcare workers to everyday heroes helping their community, we pay tribute to those who put the "extra" in the "ordinary", and chronicle the most heartwarming stories and key moments of our fight against the pandemic.
23 Jan: The first COVID-19 patient in Singapore is confirmed. The 66-year-old (above, in mask) fights the virus in hospital for 28 days before being discharged on 19 Feb 2020. Mr Wang praised the medical staff at Singapore General Hospital for their professionalism and care: “Maybe it’s God’s will that I was in the good hands of the medical staff here. So I feel very glad to be discharged.”
Jan-Feb: (Above) The outbreak inspires some Singaporeans to share resources and perform kindnesses for each other: from giving away masks, to offering their homes as a collection point.
1 Feb: Over 5 million masks from the national stockpile are handed out by the Government (that works out to four masks per household), with advice to wear the masks only when unwell and visiting a doctor.
3 Feb: Eugene Lee and Ski Yeo (above), the husband-and-wife duo behind LearnDialect.sg, create and release precautionary videos about the novel coronavirus in everyday Cantonese, Hokkien and Teochew especially for seniors in Singapore who don't have a strong command of English or Mandarin. They follow up with more of such videos when circuit-breaker measures are announced.
7 Feb: The Ministry of Health raises Singapore's DORSCON level from Yellow to Orange after confirming a few new cases of the novel coronavirus infection without links to previous cases or travel history to China. Singaporeans step up the fight against COVID-19. Although some worry about supplies of everyday essentials (and begin panic-buying) and the safety of public transport, there is no cause for concern regarding either situation, the Government assures.
11 Feb: (Above) The coronavirus is officially named by the World Health Organization as SARS-CoV-2, and the virus causes the disease COVID-19. Referencing guidelines set in 2015, this move ensures the name of the disease does not refer to a geographical location, an animal, an individual or group of people, while still being pronounceable and related to the disease. "Having a name matters to prevent the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatising,” said Director-General of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “It also gives us a standard format to use for any future coronavirus outbreaks.”
24 Feb: (Above) RockNRojakSG, a group of talented, young musicians release the music video "Coro-NAH" to promote compassion and cleanliness.
26 Feb: Fairfield Methodist School (Primary) student Jacob Neo pens a song in two days called "Singapore, Unite As One" to show support for healthcare and frontline workers, and, together with some schoolmates and the help of teachers, creates an empowering music video.
29 Feb: Local businesses step up to lend their support behind frontline workers, from Grab offering a special transport service to restaurants providing discounts. Grapple MAX (above), a pro wrestling fitness school, holds a wrestling show to raise funds to benefit medical professionals, and streams it exclusively on Facebook live.
Feb-May: (Above) As a gesture of appreciation for healthcare and frontline workers, KFC carries out an initiative called #KFCCares, and hands out over 1,000 meals to doctors and nurses in isolation wards, telephone operators, pharmacy staff, and others at Singapore General Hospital, Tan Tock Seng Hospital and Raffles Hospital. Accompanying the meals were handwritten messages of gratitude in the shape of hearts. Kentucky Fried Chicken? More like, Keeping Frontliners Cheerful!
12 Mar: The World Health Organization declares the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. Nevertheless, stories of triumph and the resilience of the human spirit continue emerging, with the father of one COVID-19 patient sharing his story, and a Singapore student recounting her race against against time and her harrowing return from the UK to Singapore.
13 Mar: Safe distancing measures are announced. All ticketed cultural, sports and entertainment events with 250 participants or more are to be deferred or cancelled. Jonathan Smite, a Yale epidemiologist, writes a sobering article about the continued need for social distancing.
24 Mar: Safe-distancing measures are ramped up. All entertainment venues have to close, and restrictions are put in place at malls, museums and attractions while all religious gatherings are cancelled.
On 30 Mar 2020 at 8pm, Singaporeans across the island clapped from their windows and corridors, to show their appreciation to all those keeping Singapore safe and stocked during this COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you Martin Verga for getting this going. For getting us to Clap For #SGUnited We can get through this together! #clapforsgunitedPosted by SGWonderwall on Monday, 30 March 2020
30 Mar: (Above) At 8pm, Singaporeans across the island clap from their windows and corridors, to show their appreciation to all those keeping Singapore safe and stocked during this COVID-19 pandemic.
6 Apr: (Above) Amid school closures, a group of Singaporean students starts a community service to provide free online tutoring support for primary and secondary school, and junior college students who do not have access to tuition services during COVID-19. Within a week, more than 1,400 volunteers signed up as tutors, and more than 180 students were matched with tutors.
7 Apr: (Above) The term "circuit breaker" is immortalised as Prime Minister announces a whole host of measures which will run from 7 Apr to 4 May. He assures that it is not a full-scale lockdown. However, only essential services can continue to keep their premises open, and all schools will close as students shift to home-based learning (HBL).
I was on my way back home, and I was minding my own business on the train. At a particular station, a boy wearing the...Posted by Kelvin Ang on Monday, April 6, 2020
8 Apr: (Above) A touching moment between an SMRT staff and Pathlight student goes viral, capturing the hearts of a nation.
I haven't slept since the news broke 12 hours ago at midnight that yesterday's record breaking 280 out of 386 cases came...Posted by Sudesna Roy Chowdhury on Monday, April 13, 2020
14 Apr: (Above) Sudesna Roy Chowdhury, a graduate of NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, builds an English-Bengali translation portal for medical teams treating migrant workers. She receives text messages and emails of gratitude from the healthcare community, some considering her website "a staple". One email read: "Your (website) will save lives… On behalf of Singapore, thank you."
While some of us may be in the comfort of our homes with our families, many of our foreign workers are battling fear of the unknown and isolation in the dormitories. Sometimes, all it takes when you are going through a crisis is for someone to assure you that they know what you are going through and are “here for you”. And that’s what our doctors and our medical team are doing at the dorms during this tumultuous period - not just to provide medical care but also reassurance and consolation to these foreign workers. We share with you this video of one of our doctors addressing the Bangladeshi foreign workers at the dormitory. A translation of his heartfelt message in English is provided below. It tugged at our heartstrings and we hope the workers felt it too. Stay home. Keep safe. ❤️ #SGUnited ---------------------- ℎ ? . ℎ ℎ . , . , ℎ ℎ ℎ . , ℎ . ℎ ? ℎ ℎ ℎ ℎ . ℎℎ. , ℎ ℎ ℎℎ ℎ . ℎ : 1: . 2: ℎ ℎ . 3: . . 4: ℎ ℎ ℎ , 4 5 . 5: ℎ ℎ ℎ , ℎ ℎ ℎ . ℎ . ℎ ℎ ℎ . ℎ ℎ . , ℎ ℎ . ℎ ℎ ℎ ℎ . . ℎ , ℎ ℎ , ℎ ℎ , . . , , . ℎ . ℎ . ℎ !Posted by Sengkang General Hospital on Sunday, 19 April 2020
19 Apr: (Above) Dr Muntasir from Sengkang General Hospital addresses Bangladeshi workers at the dormitory to reassure and console them.
Minister Visits SAF Medical Corps Deployed at Singapore Expo Community Care Facility
More than 100 personnel comprising Regulars, Full-time National Servicemen and NSmen from the SAF Medical Corps are deployed at the Community Care Facility at Singapore EXPO & MAX Atria. Over the last few days, they have supported the Ministry of Health, Singapore in providing primary healthcare services for recovering COVID-19 patients as well as those with mild symptoms who do not require significant medical care. Earlier today, Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen visited the personnel deployed there and thanked them for supporting Singapore’s efforts against #COVID19. #SGUnited #SingaporeTogether #SeekSaveServePosted by Ministry of Defence, Singapore (MINDEF) on Thursday, 30 April 2020
22 Apr: (Above) 100 personnel including Regulars, Full-time National Servicemen and NSmen from the SAF Medical Corps are deployed at the Community Care Facility at Singapore Expo and Max Atria, looking after about 1,800 COVID-19 patients. Said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen: "If we take care of the patients in these community care facilities, it will give our hospitals a lot of space to take care of other patients... So we want to make sure that we continue to get the hospitals to also continue with their core functions."
23 Apr: (Above) Muslims in Singapore kick off the fasting month of Ramadan like never before, staying at home amid extended CB measures.
A patient consulting the roving medical team at Tanjong Gul Camp.Posted by Ministry of Defence, Singapore (MINDEF) on Wednesday, 6 May 2020
28 Apr: The Singapore Armed Forces converts six camps across Singapore - Jurong, Bedok, Amoy Quee, Guillemard, Tanjong Gul (above) and Lim Chu Kang - into community recovery facilities (CRFs). These house about 3,000 recovering migrant workers with COVID-19, who remain well at Day 14 of the disease and do not require further medical care. Said Colonel (COL) Chua Jin Kiat, the task force commander of SAF-managed CRF camps: “This last step is to tell them: ‘Brother, you’re almost there. One more place, you’re cured and you can go back to work.’ And letting them know we will continue to take care of them.”
1 May: (Above) This website pays tribute to and salutes all frontline, healthcare and migrant workers for keeping us safe and keeping Singapore going.
COVID-19 has disproportionately affected seniors more than any other age groups. I was therefore very happy to hear of...Posted by Halimah Yacob on Saturday, 2 May 2020
1 May: Singapore's oldest COVID-19 patient, 102-year-old Yap Lay Hong (above), is discharged. A resident of Lee Ah Mooi Home, she is also the mother of five, grandmother of 11 and great-grandmother of 13.
8 May: (Above) Triumphant nurses at Changi General Hospital Singapore celebrating the recovery of a COVID-19 patient.
8 May: Singapore billionaire Peter Lim (above, second from left) picks up the tab for $1 million worth of meals for around 20,000 frontline healthcare workers, prioritising housekeeping staff, patient care assistants and ambulance drivers. Even his daughter, socialite Kim Lim, has been handing out food at hospitals and foreign worker dormitories.
12 May: After over a month, Singapore eases tightened Covid-19 "circuit breaker measures".
We're getting there, Singapore. We're getting there.
2 June: After 8 long weeks, circuit breaker finally ends and Phase 1 reopening officially begins. Finally! The first rays of hope.
Some businesses can re-open with Safe Management measures, household can receive up to two visitors per day while graduating students of primary and secondary schools are able to attend school daily once again.
19 June: Thankfully, community cases have remained under control and this has allowed the government to proceed to Phase 2 in just a couple of weeks.
Group sizes cannot exceed more than five people. There should be no mixing between groups. This applies to small-group social gatherings and households. But thankfully, we got to see most businesses resume such physical retail outlets, dine-in at food and beverage stores, sports, parks and other public facilities.
These include playgrounds, beaches, swimming complexes, sport halls, gyms and fitness studios, function rooms, and similar facilities in private condominiums and clubs. This was when most Singaporeans emerged from hibernation to try and get back into shape.
An AMS personnel obtaining the blood pressure reading of a foreign worker.Posted by The Singapore Army on Tuesday, April 7, 2020
24 July: Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong says in a press briefing that all dormitories will be cleared of COVID-19 by the end of the first week of August, with the exception of 17 standalone blocks in eight purpose-built dormitories that serve as quarantine facilities.
Time to allow foreign workers out of dorms? Health experts weigh in, read more on our website,...Posted by Singapore Bangladeshi Construction Worker on Tuesday, December 8, 2020
29 July: The Ministry of Manpower announces that 95 more foreign worker dormitories have been cleared of COVID-19. This takes the total number of cleared dormitories to 975. At this point, 262,000 workers have either recovered from COVID-19 or have been tested to be free from the disease.
9 Aug: National Day Parade in the heartlands! In a year like no other, we celebrate Singapore's birthday under the most unique of circumstances.
But it is still an unforgettable spectacle. We have tanks rolling down neighbourhood streets, a closed concert show segment and fireworks at 10 locations around the island.
Our personal highlight: Singapore's Red Lions kicking off the festivities as they land near Ng Teng Fong General Hospital and Sengkang General Hospital, as a tribute to our nation's healthcare workers.
12 Aug: A vaccine, called Lunar-Cov19, which was jointly developed by Duke-NUS Medical School and US pharmaceutical company Arcturus Therapeutics enters the first phase human trial with Singaporean volunteers.
3 Sep: Book in lo! MINDEF announces that National Service In-Camp Training (ICT) and Individual Physical Proficiency Tests (IPPT) will progressively resume from October, with safety measures and protocols in place.
14 Sep: From this date, all Singapore residents are to be given a free TraceTogether token. The first batch had been given out from June to 10,000 senior citizens. SafeEntry check-in data + proximity data from TraceTogether = enhanced safety for participants. Yay!
Very good news for us in Singapore! As an expat I can’t yet leave the country without being denied re-entry, but it seems I’m safer here than many places.Posted by Jared Robertson on Tuesday, October 13, 2020
13 Oct: The Ministry of Health (MOH) confirms that there are no new cases of locally transmitted COVID-19 infection for the first time.
The Tengah Air Base Medical Centre is designed with features that allow the centre to support pandemic outbreak responses without compromising day-to-day operational functions.Posted by Ng Eng Hen on Wednesday, November 4, 2020
4 Nov: Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen announces in a Facebook post that Tengah Airbase now has pandemic-ready facilities, including isolation rooms with separate ventilation systems among other improvements. Read our piece on it here.
14 Dec: PM Lee announces the long-awaited news of Phase 3 of Singapore's reopening, which is set to commence on 28 Dec. This will allow public social gatherings of up to eight people, and households to receive up to eight visitors. Ho seh lah!
Even better news: we can expect the first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in Singapore at the end of the month as well as other COVID-19 vaccines in the coming months.
The cherry on top of the cake: The part where he says, "We have decided to make vaccinations free for all Singaporeans, and for all long-term residents who are currently here. With more of us vaccinated, the harder it will be for the virus to spread, and the safer we will all be as a society."
#TraceTogether may be the world’s most successful digital contact tracing programme. We have surpassed the 70%...Posted by Vivian Balakrishnan on Tuesday, December 22, 2020
23 Dec: 70% of Singaporean residents have signed up for the TraceTogether programme. That means more than 3.8 million people are using either the app or token! It's super heartening to see everyone doing their part to combat this pandemic.
[⛹️♀️ ⛹️♂️ ⛹️♀️ ⛹️♂️ v ⛹️♀️ ⛹️♂️ ⛹️♀️ ⛹️♂️] In line with Phase 3 of re-opening, the cap on group sizes for...Posted by Edwin Tong on Wednesday, December 23, 2020
28 Dec: Finally! The light at the end of the tunnel. We end the year on a good note. Phase 3 commences.
Group size for gatherings - which includes everything from house visits to group sports (yes football, finally) - has now increased from 5 to 8 persons.
Congregational worship can now allow up to 250 persons and there's also a greenlight for live performances to resume. We can finally attend concerts again!
This morning, Singapore’s vaccination exercise began with the first batch of healthcare workers at the National Centre...Posted by Ministry of Health, Singapore on Tuesday, December 29, 2020
30 Dec: The first vaccination exercise in Singapore commences, and the first to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine: 40 healthcare workers (including clinical, nursing and administration staff) at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases, starting with senior staff nurse Sarah Lim.
Because this vaccine requires to injections given 21 days apart, they will return for the second dose of the vaccine after 3 weeks. This follows the news that all Singaporeans and long-term residents will be able to get a COVID-19 vaccination by end-2021, if there are no unforeseen disruptions to vaccine shipments.