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Speech by Dr Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Communications and Information, at the ‘Heroes of Our Time’ Commemorative Art Event, 13 March 2021

  • Professor Benjamin Seet, Deputy Group CEO (Education and Research), NHG

    Mr Terence Teo, President, Singapore Art Society

    Dr Juliana Chan, Publisher, Asian Scientist Magazine

    Ms Chan Chia Lin, Chairman, Healthserve

    Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, friends

                  It is my pleasure to be here at the launch of the “Heroes of our Time” art exhibition, and in doing so to commemorate the efforts of our healthcare workers and frontline staff in the fight against COVID-19. It has been more than a year since the first case of COVID-19 came to Singapore and was reported in Singapore and despite the uncertainty and little knowledge we had of the disease in those initial days, our healthcare workers, our frontliners, our entire healthcare system – public and private –  have remained steadfast in their roles, vigilant for the cause that they have to protect us against, and duty bound in their mission. They persevered and surmounted many challenges that they have faced.

    2.              They have made sacrifices. They have gone beyond the call of duty, and most importantly, they have come together as we have as Singaporeans, as one people, as one healthcare system to serve wherever help was needed.

    • Doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, pharmacists, and operations and ground staff, caring for COVID-19 patients, walking the ground and keeping ourservices running, not just delivering COVID-19 services and looking after the coughs, the colds and broken bones, the children and the elderly.
    • The administrative and ancillary services and teams helping to organise and very importantly pivot our healthcare infrastructure and operations to meet rapidly changing needs, scaling services’ capbability and functionality rapidly in an agile manner.
    • Laboratories are working around the clock to ramp-up testing capacity. Clinical research and epidemiological teams, gathering information to combat the spread and contain the virus.

    • Logistics, IT and procurement teams working together to keep our healthcare supply chains resourced and our system running smoothly.

3.           There are just some of the efforts that have contributed to Singapore’s overall COVID-19 response.

4.             Within the National Healthcare Group (NHG), no effort has been spared to protect Singapore, and your staff from COVID-19, which supported us by redeploying manpower and resources to Community Care Facilities and medical posts in purpose-built dormitories, in COVID-19 swabbing and testing operations, and now, with the greatest vaccination roll out in our history.

5.              The National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) has been at the forefront of Singapore’s fight against COVID-19. It’s integration of clinical, research and public health functions allowed it to respond swiftly and effectively to outbreaks in a proactive and coordinated manner, in learning the lessons each time to better prepare us for the next pandemic. NCID has also been important in advising MOH, as well as sharing knowledge externally, for example with the World Health Organization, representing our views on a global stage.

6.               But no single healthcare worker, no single organisation, no single institution or healthcare cluster can manage this on its own. This pandemic, COVID-19, this crisis has required strong collaboration across the healthcare family to ensure that Singapore is prepared and that patients receive the appropriate level of care that we hope to get. It is this strong sense of commitment and purpose from our healthcare professionals that has helped to keep Singapore safe, and I would like to express my deepest appreciation to every member of the healthcare community.

7.             Our fight has been a whole-of-society effort, and has gone beyond our hospital walls. It is part of our community, and support from every Singaporean and every Singaporean institution is crucial. Non-governmental organisations such as HealthServe, social service organisations and volunteers chipped in to ensure the well-being of our migrant workforce. Singaporeans have rallied together for the greater good, adapting to new social norms and adhering to safe management measures. We have so far been able to contain the spread of the virus as one Singapore, and this collective effort will stand us in good stead as we plan to tackle the challenges ahead and keep our COVID-19 situation stable.

8.             Today, 18 artists from the Singapore Art Society have come together to produce a painting to pay tribute to our healthcare workers and frontliners, titled “Heroes of Our Time”. Even the way that they have produced it, coming together in smaller groups, distributing their efforts so that they can maintain their safe distancing measures, keeping themselves safe, as they produce this work of art. That work of art conveyed our gratitude to the heroes among us to protect Singapore against COVID-19. I hope you will enjoy the art work we are going to unveil soon – I think we saw pieces of it in the video–and the art exhibition as much as I anticipate that I will.

9.              As I walked in, I was struck. I haven’t been to this art exhibition yet but I saw some of the children’s work as I was walking in, and I think as you turn the corner and come into this lovely space, we do get an impression of the art. Seeing as I thought I was attending an event about COVID-19 and the pandemic, my first impression was, “My, what bright colours”. This is not an art exhibition of dark greys of doom and gloom. There are some silver moments that I noticed as I was sitting there, some reflections of what must have been difficult in trying times, but much of the artwork is bright and colourful, and built in to the seriousness, is a sense of hope and a sense of anticipation.

10.             I think in a way that reflects where we are today in Singapore. We walk through Ion coming here. The shops are busy and there are lots of things happening. In the community, there is a sense of expectation, like a coil spring as we gear up our vaccination operations, and I hope the fact that we have been able to keep our healthcare systems going, the businesses as usual, how we have been able to keep our community organisations, voluntary welfare organisations doing the work that they do, how we have been able to produce art in the midst of a pandemic, are two lessons for us as we come out of this crisis in preparation for our future. Firstly, that we do have to be prepared and pay attention to these people who will work to keep us prepared, such as the heroes reflected in your art work, but also that we can do this. We can maintain a sense of unity, cohesion and hope, even in the most dire of crises. If we can hold on to those two ideas, that will prepare us well for the future and give us a sense of hope and aspiration that I think is reflected in many of the paintings here today. Thank you all very much, and congratulations.


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