Lee Hsien Loong urges social cohesion to counter COVID-19
by Steve Suwannarat

The prime minister of the city-state released a video message on Independence Day. The pandemic has widened the fault lines in society. Plans are being drawn up to help migrant workers and low-income groups. 

Singapore (AsiaNews) – Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong delivered his National Day message marking the founding of the Republic of Singapore in 1965. Previously, the city-state had been part of the Federation of Malaysia, created after the end of British colonial rule.

In his address, the prime minister focused on social cohesion, support for the most disadvantaged groups, more sustainable development, and concern for ethnic and religious relations strained by the pandemic. Such a vision requires constant work.

The COVID-19 pandemic has deeply marked the city-state of 5.7 million, straining the “fault lines in society”.

The “formidable” enemy, the virus responsible for the pandemic, took the country by surprise, but now seems to be under control. 

Fortunately, “Singaporeans have worked together, looked out for others, and relied on one another throughout this crisis,” Lee said.

The last wave, which began in July, has forced the authorities to raise the alert level, arousing a feeling of hostility towards the government and its policies, which have always aimed at protecting lives and livelihoods. 

“There are certainly areas where we could have done better. But ultimately, we have kept everyone in Singapore, including migrant workers, safe,” Lee said.

The prime minister noted that that only 42 people have died out of almost 66,000 coronavirus cases. More than two-thirds of residents are fully vaccinated, and over 85 per cent of the elderly have received at least one dose.

Although social cohesion “has held,” Lee is conscious that “we cannot take it for granted”, a reference to the large immigrant population which has been disproportionately impacted by the loss of jobs and economic contraction caused by the pandemic.

For this group of residents, the government is proposing support, part of a larger project to help low-income, often discriminated groups.

At the same time, for Lee discrimination is not inherent. Recent racist incidents “are worrying, but they are not the norm,” he explained.

Instead, working together and showing understanding can boost social cohesion among Singaporeans, which is a cornerstone of their society.