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Mr Lawrence Wong, Minister for Education, fellow Chair of the COVID-19 Multi-Ministry Taskforce
Madam Kay Kuok, Chairman, National Healthcare Group Board
Professor Philip Choo, Group Chief Executive Officer, National Healthcare Group
Professor Leo Yee Sin, Executive Director, National Centre for Infectious Diseases
Professor Eugene Soh, Chief Executive Officer, Tan Tock Seng Hospital
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning.

Opening and Appreciation

1.            Congratulations on your anniversary. Just about a year ago, I was at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID), congratulating the team on the opening of NCID. At that time I had highlighted that the threat of infectious disease outbreaks was ever present, and that we should remain ever vigilant. We should always be in a state of preparedness and be ready to respond to emerging public health threats. This would not only involve the strengthening of our clinical and public health capabilities, but also forging strong partnerships with other key players.

2.            No one would have expected then that we will be put to the test so quickly and be placed in the forefront of what the Prime Minister had termed as the “crisis of a generation”. I must say that I am very encouraged that NCID and our whole healthcare system has stood up to the challenge. Today, let me thank everyone in NCID for helping to keep Singapore safe and for caring for our patients in the past year. Thank you indeed for your hard work.

Clinical and Public Health Capabilities Working in Concert

3.            From the lessons learnt during SARS, we had decided to set up NCID to strengthen our capabilities in infectious disease prevention and management, as well as public health preparedness at the national level. The integration of clinical, research and public health functions under NCID will allow us to respond swiftly and effectively to events and outbreaks in a proactive and coordinated manner.

4.            Throughout COVID-19, we had observed the different capabilities at NCID and the public hospitals. Let me share some examples. The National Public Health Laboratory was swift in coming out with a PCR assay to test for the new virus, and ramped up capacity to support the rapidly rising testing demand. They then supported public health investigations through virus isolation and whole genome sequencing. The National Public Health and Epidemiology Unit supported the establishment of protocols to stratify patients to appropriate levels of clinical care. The NCID operations team rapidly stood up the NCID screening centre, and expanded the capacity of the isolation beds, while the clinical team from NCID and Tan Tock Seng Hospital worked together to manage the patients at NCID.

5.            The appearance of the physical building of NCID may look calm and serene, but much hard work, anxieties, and dedication have gone in to ensure that the patients are attended to in a timely and appropriate manner. It is no mean feat for NCID to be in the focus of the COVID-19 pandemic and to keep mortality low. You have done well and you should be proud of yourselves.

Cooperation and Collaboration

6.            I want to especially thank the very strong support of Tan Tock Seng Hospital in providing manpower and the various resources to ensure that NCID’s operations are smooth and responsive. The public healthcare family had also responded to NCID’s urgent call for resources and manpower, despite having operational and manpower challenges of their own. I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to all the hospitals and the teams who had come forward to assist with the COVID-19 response.

7.            This crisis demonstrates that no single healthcare institution can manage a pandemic like this on its own.  Let me share a few examples of these collaborative efforts. The National COVID-19 Therapeutic Workgroup, comprising multi-disciplinary members from different institutions, was formed to discuss clinical care protocols, and evaluate the use of antiviral drugs and novel therapeutics in the treatment of COVID-19 patients. The National ICU Committee, comprising experts from NCID, public and private sector, was formed to work with MOH in the building up of surge capacity and capabilities in managing COVID-19 patients requiring ICU care. These strong collaborations across the healthcare family enable our system to be prepared and to avoid being overwhelmed like in many countries, and ensures that our patients are provided with the best care.

Other Public Health Efforts in NCID

8.            Although much of our effort this year had been on COVID-19, the challenges of other infectious diseases still need to be addressed. I would like to recognise the good work that has been done in NCID to strengthen our overall public health capabilities, including our National HIV Programme, the National Tuberculosis Programme, as well as coordinating the national effort to address antimicrobial resistance. Even as teams in these areas are called upon to assist with COVID-19 work, they had continued to make progress in the respective public health areas. I trust that when their day comes, and I hope not too soon, our colleagues will also readily go to their aid.


9.            COVID-19 is likely to remain with us for a while, but from what NCID and the healthcare family had demonstrated in the past year, I am confident that we will be able to meet the challenge of the day, and overcome this crisis of a generation. I would once again like to show my appreciation to all for the professionalism and hard work in safeguarding our nation and our people.

10.          Thank you and congratulations.

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