This year, we mark Total Defence Day as Singapore grapples with the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. It's a global problem because this virus does not respect borders, nationalities or race. But just as we dealt with SARS in 2003, we can contain the spread of disease through Total Defence and just as important, keep Singapore going.
We remember how SARS caused sickness and death. Fear of being infected gripped citizens everywhere and it paralysed economies. Tourists stopped travelling and people stayed home. As a result, jobs were lost and retrenchments went up. In some countries, this fear created distrust and divided people. But in Singapore, we rallied through Total Defence, stayed united, overcame the SARS crisis to emerge intact and stronger.
Total Defence must now come into action again against the novel coronavirus. For social defence, each of us must practise good hygiene and distance ourselves from others if sick. If you have cough and other flu symptoms, don't spread the disease to others. At the same time, we must show empathy and compassion to help those who are infected or under quarantine. We must strengthen our psychological defence to withstand the ups and downs from this viral outbreak. We can keep on with our daily lives, by taking sensible precautions. Wash your hands regularly and keep them away from the face.
In the midst of this battle against the viral outbreak, we offer our deep condolences to the families of victims who have suffered. We also salute our frontline staff, especially our doctors, nurses and healthcare workers who treat patients day to day and up close. You have our fullest respect and gratitude. Please protect yourselves and your families even as you do your jobs as professionals.
Even as we deal with the viral outbreak, we must ensure that our economy can function to keep jobs and livelihoods for Singapore. The Government will work with companies and unions to ensure that retrenchments are kept to a minimum, if at all. The Home Team is working hard to keep our borders safe while the SAF stands ever ready to assist and ensures that we do not let down our guard for national defence. Our civil and military defences are in good working order.
Last year, we added a sixth pillar - Digital Defence - that will further strengthen our Total Defence. It was a timely and necessary addition, as this episode in dealing with the viral outbreak shows. False information about the disease or messages to incite hatred against any group do nothing to contain the outbreak. In fact, they do much harm. We must never let these DRUMS - distortions, rumours, untruths, misinformation and smears - be heard lest they sow discord, divide our people and ultimately weaken our will to defeat the outbreak and defend Singapore.
I have every confidence that as we mark Total Defence Day, Singaporeans will again rally and win this fight against the novel coronavirus. Only then, as one united people, can our nation stand up and overcome any challenge that comes our way. If we maintain that resolve, with each Singaporean committed to doing their part, then Singapore can continue to be a shining example for many years to come.