COVID-19 In Singapore: A Timeline Of Triumph
STORY: Farhan Shafie
11 May 2020
It's been 110 days 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 the pandemic so far.
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.
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).
8 Apr: (Above) A touching moment between an SMRT staff and Pathlight student goes viral, capturing the hearts of a nation.
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."
19 Apr: (Above) Dr Muntasir from Sengkang General Hospital addresses Bangladeshi workers at the dormitory to reassure and console them.
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.
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.
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.