Speech by Minister for Manpower Dr Tan See Leng at the COVID-19 AAR White Paper Parliamentary Debate
A - PREAMBLE
A1. Mr Speaker Sir, Members of the House, the past three years of the COVID-19 pandemic have been a long and arduous journey, fraught with many uncertainties and challenges. The struggles faced by many were heart wrenching. There were countless difficult decisions and trade-offs made in the fog of war. But right from the start, we had one overriding objective: to protect lives, jobs and livelihoods. We were determined to emerge with a strong and resilient economy, and to shield our workers from the full economic brunt of the pandemic. We pulled through on both counts. We also made a concerted effort to safeguard our migrant workers’ health, and thankfully, despite the scale of the outbreak in the dormitories, the mortality rate among our migrant workers was very low.
A2. The other silver lining in the dark cloud of this pandemic was witnessing the resilience of our people- one people, standing together as one nation. It has been a profoundly humbling and heartening experience to see the outpouring of support from the private and people sectors, and the indomitable spirit of our workers. To our local and foreign workers, employers, industry associations, Tripartite Partners and Non-Governmental Organisations such as the Migrant Worker’s Centre, HealthServe and Hope Initiative Alliance, and the many more whom SMS Zaqy will mention tomorrow, thank you. Mr Bernard Menon from the MWC, Dr Benjamin Kuan from Healthserve and Revd Ezekiel Tan from HIA also joined us earlier today. It has been your support, labours and sacrifices, together with all the rest, that have weathered us through the storm.
A3. Today, I will reflect on the decisions made, the trade-offs considered, and the lessons learnt in the Ministry of Manpower’s journey, in the following areas:
a. Bringing the outbreak in the migrant worker dormitories under control;
b. Protecting jobs and livelihoods of our workers; and
c. Building stronger systems and capabilities for the future.
B - MAKING DIFFICULT DECISIONS BASED ON LIMITED KNOWLEDGE AND RESOURCES IN THE MIGRANT WORKER DORMITORIES AT THE START
B1. We were thrust into an uncertain and extremely unpredictable environment in early 2020. There was a paucity of knowledge about the virus regarding its inherent characteristics and transmission modes at the early stage. The prevailing expert view in early 2020 was that the COVID-19 virus was closely related to SARS and that symptomatic transmission was the main mode of spread. It was also thought that COVID-19 was spread primarily through droplet rather than airborne transmission. Some experts were even saying that the pandemic itself would be over by the summer season. The inherent mutagenic potential of the virus however, resulted in rapid mutations from Alpha to Delta and subsequently Omicron. Even now it continues to evolve, it continues to mutate. We had to respond and adapt quickly, learning continuously in real time, given the uncertainties about the virus.
B2. Drawing from the SARS experience and the prevailing expert views about symptomatic transmission, we implemented measures like temperature taking at the migrant worker dormitories and the isolation of workers who reported sick with acute respiratory infection or (ARI) symptoms. At every point in time our measures were guided by science and the latest evidence available at that moment in time. We did not pick up the asymptomatic cases and we were under the impression then that our measures were sufficient. Looking back now, we were completely mistaken.
B3. It was only in April 2020 that the infectious disease experts began to realise that COVID-19 could spread asymptomatically. By then, the virus was already spreading in the dormitories. We did not have a clear, comprehensive, and timely picture of the workers who were sick, because not everyone reported sick. There were significant gaps in our understanding of the disease, in testing and surveillance, and in the data and information regarding the location of the workers in the dormitories.
B4. Recognising the scale of the outbreak in the dormitories, the Government set up the Interagency Task Force in April 2020 and brought in the SAF and Home Team, as well as public healthcare capabilities. We required the resources and the organisation to manage the highly complex operations in the dormitories. Drawing on the expertise and resources of multiple stakeholders, the ITF mobilised nearly 3,000 officers and volunteers from the SAF, the Home Team, the MOM and across the Public Service. During that period, we worked closely with the dormitory operators, the employers, the medical community, the NGOs and other community groups, to provide care and support for the migrant workers in the dormitories.
B5. In April 2020, the dormitories were progressively put under lockdown, and the circuit breaker was also implemented in the community. This helped to arrest the spread of COVID-19 in the dormitories. We knew that the dormitory lockdown put the migrant workers under stress and strain, but if we had not done so, the transmission among migrant workers across the dormitories and into the community would have been much more severe and much more widespread. If we had allowed the transmissions to grow out of control, the situation could have become what we saw in other countries – a large number of cases that may have overwhelmed the healthcare system with a high consequent number of deaths.
B6. Once we had made that difficult decision, the ITF swung into action and set up medical posts and networks in and around the dormitories. Thermometers and oximeters were given to migrant workers to monitor their health. We took care of our migrant workers the best we could based on what we knew, with the resources that we had, and ensured that all migrant workers had access to good medical care, help and timely treatment if needed. Here, I would like to put on record our appreciation to many of our selfless healthcare workers from both the public and private healthcare institutions who were among the first to step up and provide medical services to our migrant workers living in dormitories at the start of the pandemic.
a. One exemplary individual was Dr Muntasir Mannan Choudhury, a hand surgeon with Sengkang General Hospital, who was serving at a medical post in S11 dormitory in early 2020. During the early days of the pandemic where communications with migrant workers were challenging due to language barriers, Dr Muntasir took the initiative and spoke in Bengali using a loud hailer to reassure the residents that their medical needs, safety and their wellbeing would be attended to.
b. In the last three years, he has continued to volunteer his medical services and linguistic capabilities and continued to provide free medical advice to Bengali workers living in smaller dormitories. He also gave health talks to large groups of migrant workers.
B7. At the time, we did not have many large-scale facilities readily available to de-densify the dormitories. We knew that conveying COVID-19-positive workers away from COVID-naïve ones and isolating them was key. To this end, the government worked with private sector partners to set up quarantine, isolation and recovery facilities. Forward Assurance Support Teams (or FAST teams) were formed and deployed at the dormitories to provide direct access to workers to assure them , care for them and engage them. To slow down the transmission of the virus in the dormitories, the workers could not intermingle within the dormitories. We organised and distributed the meals to the 200,000 workers over four months, and ensured that employers continued to pay their workers even when they could not work. Mobile remittance services were also set up to make it convenient for workers to remit monies back home to their loved ones. As mentioned by Ms Rachel Ong, we recognised that some migrant workers, particularly those in the factory-converted dormitories (FCDs) faced difficulties in accessing food as they typically sourced and cooked their own food. It was a challenging time for everyone, we appreciate the NGOs stepping in and working with MOM to provide food for workers where needed. Workers who could not access food could contact MOM for assistance, and while MOM concurrently liaised with employers to take over this responsibility when things stabilised.
B8. By the time that the dormitory lockdown was lifted in August 2020, we estimated that about half of the migrant workers in the dormitories had been infected by COVID-19, the vast majority of whom had mild or asymptomatic infection. The number of migrant workers who were severely ill; for example, requiring intensive care in a hospital, was fortuitously low. Regrettably, two migrant workers from the dormitories passed away as a result of COVID-19. Every death is one death too many. We had not managed to keep transmission in the dormitories low, but we did our level best at the time to make sure the migrant workers received good medical care with the doctors and attended to their other needs. The situation could have turned out much worse, but through the collective efforts of multiple stakeholders mentioned above, we managed to stave off a potentially worse outcome.
B9. At this juncture, I must also acknowledge the trust and support given by our migrant workers throughout this period. It was an immensely difficult time for them, because they were worried about COVID-19 and the uncertainty for their future. I am gratified that they trusted the Government to do right by them.
B10. One of the migrant workers, Mr Hassan Mehadi, conveyed his appreciation to us in a feedback.
a. He wrote “In April 2020, I was brought to Tan Tock Seng hospital and I was confirmed to be COVID-19 positive. When I was there, I saw other Singaporeans who were being treated in the same room as me. That gave me a lot of assurance that I would be well taken care of and given the same level of treatment as Singaporeans. From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank the Singapore government and the great healthcare team for taking care of migrant workers like us with so much care and concern.”
His story reflects the trust, co-operation and the incredible resilience of our migrant workers. With their support, we were able to safeguard their health and their livelihoods.
C - IMPROVING THE SITUATION IN THE MIGRANT WORKER DORMITORIES
C1. By August 2020 the ITF had completed testing of all dormitory residents to clear the dormitories of COVID-19. The workers could now return to work.
C2. To continue the work of the ITF, the Assurance, Care & Engagement (or ACE) Group in MOM was formed. The mission of the ACE Group was to safeguard the well-being of our migrant workers by enhancing support for their healthcare, housing, and social needs while keeping the workers safe during the pandemic.
C3. Our priority continued to be to protect the health and well-being of our migrant workers. ACE established ground presence in the dormitories to assure migrant workers of our continued support. We set up an infection prevention and control programme working with nurses and FAST teams to teach hand washing, personal hygiene, and social distancing. In addition, we implemented routine testing and quarantine processes to keep the migrant workers safe. The team also looked after their well-being and recreational needs together with NGOs.
C4. We worked with private and public laboratories to increase the frequency of collection of swab samples and expanded capacity for processing of test results, so that we could test more workers more quickly. This enabled our ACE teams on the ground to identify infected workers and their close contacts quickly and to convey them to recovery and quarantine facilities. We undertook all these measures before vaccination was available, so that the situation in the dormitories would remain safe and stable. So even though there were some COVID-19 clusters and transmissions after the completion of dormitory clearance, ACE and MOH working closely together were able to bring these under control through testing and isolation. We achieved a significant milestone of zero new cases reported in the dormitories on 13 Oct 2020. This brought a new sense of confidence and optimism in our ability to respond to the virus.
C5. Vaccination was a key lever in our arsenal in the fight against COVID-19 when it arrived. MOM and MOH worked closely together to make vaccination available to migrant workers from March 2021, at the same time as the rollout for the local community. Informational packages in the migrant workers’ native languages were distributed to help them understand the benefits of vaccination. Leveraging the networks of our migrant worker volunteers, dormitory operators and the NGOs, we were able to reach out to all workers and encourage them to come forward to be vaccinated. In less than six months, over nine in ten migrant workers living in the dormitories were fully vaccinated. This made a difference when the highly transmissible Delta Variant struck in mid-2021, and there was no further loss of life to COVID-19 among migrant workers living in the dormitories.
D – FACILITATING THE SAFE INFLOW OF MIGRANT WORKERS
D1. Bringing COVID-19 infection under control in the dormitories was only one piece of the picture. We had to keep it that way, even as new workers entered Singapore to support our economy.
D2. For example, MOM set up one-stop Onboarding centres so that new workers entering Singapore were brought to a dedicated facility to complete their stay-home notice, get the necessary medical examination, COVID-19 testing, vaccination and orientation programme done all under one roof. At the Onboard centres, imported cases could be screened out, isolated, managed and contained, so that the disease was not brought into the dormitories.
D3. With the tightening of border measures due to new variants of concern, various industry associations organised a pilot initiative to test workers and safeguard them from infection at dedicated facilities in their home countries before onward travel to Singapore.
D4. Once the infrastructure was in place, we were subsequently able to reopen safely and earlier, so that the economy could also restart earlier. We started bringing back the migrant workers back in significantly larger numbers from end 2021. And this was important for many sectors, including the restart of Singapore’s construction efforts. SMS Zaqy will make further mention of our efforts in the construction sector.
E - WITH HINDSIGHT, WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN THE ALTERNATIVES ON WHAT MOM COULD HAVE DONE?
E1. Looking back at the way we contained and managed the outbreak in the dormitories, we asked ourselves – could we have done things differently? If all of you recall, at the start, testing capacities were very limited, but I think we could have done more surveillance through sample testing for the different migrant worker population to detect clusters early. Masks were very scarce at the start, but we could have ensured some form of masks or protective covering were worn by migrant workers to reduce the incidence of transmissions.
E2. In the fog of war, we could have communicated better with the dormitory workers at every step and stage of the way, to better share information and assure them on the measures we were taking to protect them. MOM will learn from these lessons and we will strive to do better in the future.
F - BUILDING A STRONGER MIGRANT WORKER ECOSYSTEM FOR THE FUTURE
F1. This brings me to how we will use the lessons from COVID-19 to build resilience in the dormitories against a future pandemic. The three areas of reforms are:
a. Housing Resilience – in the form of new dormitory standards.
b. Healthcare Resilience - in the form of a new primary healthcare system.
c. Mental Wellbeing and Social Support Resilience – by building awareness of mental health issues and support resources.
F2. As we transit to endemicity, we have continued to review measures on the living arrangements of our dormitory residents, as part of enhancing liveability in the dormitories and ensuring that Singapore will be better prepared for future health crises. In September 2021, we introduced improved standards for all new migrant worker dormitories. Mr Leon Perera asked for NGOs to be engaged and we already have done so on these dorm standards with a broad range of NGOs for these improved standards, including HealthServe and HOME. Some of these standards include enhanced living and public health standards such as larger living space per resident, in room Wi-Fi, en-suite toilets, better ventilation in rooms, and dedicated bed spaces for isolation purposes as well as wastewater surveillance. Mr Louis Ng earlier spoke about minimum standards in the dormitories. We are also working closely with stakeholders to develop a plan for existing dormitories to transit to the new improved standards. This will take into the consideration what existing infrastructure in the dormitories today that they can support, as well as the potential disruption to the dormitory bed supply, and how this will impact the inflow of the migrant workers, and we will announce details of the transition plan later this year. Ms Rachel Ong spoke earlier about the conditions in the Factory Converted Dormitories. Prior to the pandemic, MOM inspected all FCDs in 2016 and took action against a quarter of them. 6 FCDs were also prosecuted for unacceptable living conditions. This was followed up with another round of inspections for those with poor standards. Since 2017, 175 FCDs were served with warnings and fines. And another 4 were also prosecuted for unacceptable accommodation. But we recognise beyond punitive measures that more needs to be done to raise the standards of dormitories, including the FCDs. We will continue to strengthen our regulatory levers on dormitory operators. The scope of the Foreign Employee Dormitories Act (FEDA) will be expanded to include migrant worker dormitories with seven or more beds starting from 1 Apr 2023. This will increase the number of dormitories, including FCDs, regulated under FEDA from 53 to 1500, and allow MOM to raise standards and respond quickly to future emergencies. This will also give MOM additional levers to enforce against the dorm operator. Other than financial penalties, the Commissioner for FEDA can issue compliance directives to the operator to rectify lapses as well as business restrictive orders which will prohibit operators from taking in new tenants until the operator makes good on all its shortcomings.
F3. To grow our capabilities in dormitory management, MOM will also be building and owning two new dormitories, which will be operated by a new corporate entity in partnership with the private sector. They will also provide MOM with the opportunity to innovate to pilot new ideas for public health resilience and dormitory living, to improve the lived experience of migrant workers.
F4. These initiatives to enhance the standards of the living environment of our migrant workers, will transform the features of the entire migrant worker landscape. Our FAST teams, first deployed during the Circuit Breaker in 2020, and now under ACE, continue to proactively and regularly visit dormitories to engage migrant workers on their overall well-being, and work with both workers and dormitory operators to resolve issues on living conditions in a timely manner. At the end of 2022, we also added a new feature on FWMOMCare, where migrant workers can send a request to talk to MOM via the mobile application. The FAST officer will then contact the workers directly to address any issue or feedback that the workers may have. This provides an additional avenue for workers to seek assistance when they face a problem. ACE is now a permanent capability to support our migrant workers in their everyday lives and will also have the capability to respond quickly in a future pandemic.
F5. In addition to housing resilience, learning from the pandemic, we will also need to strengthen healthcare resilience in the migrant worker community.
F6. We took a holistic approach to redesign the way primary care services were delivered to migrant workers and change the way migrant workers sought care when they are unwell. We made two significant changes.
F7. First, we organised workers living in the dormitories into six geographical zones and appointed Anchor Operators to provide integrated primary medical service at designated Medical Centres and affiliated clinics. To date, there are 10 medical centres and a network of partnered private clinics serving the population of more than 300,000 workers. To bridge language and cultural barriers, the Anchor Operators have put in place multilingual translation capabilities and augmented their clinical teams with healthcare workers who can speak the native languages of our migrant workers.
F8. Second, we have also mandated a Primary Care Plan (PCP) offered by all Anchor Operators that covers most of the primary care needs of the workers at a fixed annual fee to employers, thereby giving them greater peace of mind. With the PCP, workers can now choose to seek medical consultation 24 hours a day via telemedicine or report sick at regional medical centres for a small co-payment fee. With these measures, we help employers provide quality primary care at affordable cost and allow workers to develop better health seeking habits through accessible medical care. At the same time, we are also able to leverage on the new primary healthcare system for public heath surveillance. The healthcare resilience of our migrant worker community is now significantly strengthened.
Mental Well-being and Support Resilience
F9. As the COVID-19 situation improved in Singapore, we took a careful and calibrated approach to progressively ease restrictions in order to safeguard migrant workers’ health. We started relaxing movement restrictions from as early as Sept 2020, but had to roll back because of the emergence of new variants. We increased the frequency of such visits to recreation centres and the community significantly in the latter part of 2021 after the Delta wave had passed and we assessed that it would be much safer to do so.
F10. We had to constantly make judgment calls on when and how quickly to ease movement restrictions on migrant workers living in dormitories. New COVID-19 variants were emerging all the time, and there were persistent concerns about vaccine breakthrough and reinfections. There were also concerns that new variants were getting more infectious while time was needed to assess if there were any changes to disease severity and vaccine effectiveness. So, amidst the uncertainty, our considerations were always to prioritise our migrant workers’ safety and ensure that they could continue working, receive their salary and send money home. Nonetheless, this took a toll on the mental wellbeing of the migrant workers. However, if we had opened up more quickly and it precipitated another series of large outbreaks, it would have put at risk again the health of the migrant workers. As it turned out, there were no further COVID-19 fatalities beyond the two in the early phase. We could have eased up more quickly, but then again, all of this is on hindsight.
F11. In November 2020, ACE Group set up a multi-stakeholder taskforce called Project DAWN (Depression, Awareness, Wellbeing, Normalisation), comprising representatives from MOM, Government psychologists, the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), and two NGOs – Migrant Workers’ Centre (MWC) and HealthServe. The purpose of developing Project Dawn was to develop a comprehensive support ecosystem to manage the mental health of migrant workers.
F12. The Project DAWN taskforce has since developed resources and raised greater awareness of mental health issues amongst our migrant worker community and stakeholders. The Project DAWN framework consists of seven initiatives. For primary prevention, we have mental and social wellness awareness and promotion. For secondary prevention we have identification of at-risk patients and risk factors, screening for mental health issues, surveillance for the mental health and emotional distress and counselling, and the training and ramping up of training of para-counsellors. For tertiary prevention, we have timely escalation of care and when they recover, the provision of post-intervention support – hence, normalisation. These initiatives have been progressively rolled out over the past two and a half years.
F13. Employers and dormitory operators form an integral part of the support ecosystem for our workers. They are regularly reminded by MOM to look out for the wellbeing of their workers and encourage closer networks and engagement at work and in the dormitories.
F14. Appropriate access to care services such as counselling and community support was also strengthened. With MOM’s support, HealthServe set up its 24-hour counselling hotline which has been operational since August 2021 and hired more native-speaking para-counsellors to deliver culturally attuned counselling.
F15. We would not have been able to build resilience in these areas alone. It was in the pandemic that we saw the best of Singaporeans, and indeed, our humanity shone through when we demonstrated care for our neighbours. We saw NGOs, businesses, migrant workers, local communities step up to provide food and gifts, care, and contributions for our migrant workforce. We learnt how important it was to continually foster these partnerships, as each and every one of these partners made a difference in turning the tide.
F16. We will remember these lessons as we build a stronger migrant worker ecosystem, as we work collectively with our many partners to care for our migrant workers, and ensure that the migrant workforce remains a productive and pandemic-resilient complement to our workforce.
G - SUPPORTING JOBS AND LIVELIHOODS DURING THE PANDEMIC
G1. Even as we safeguarded the well-being of our migrant workers, our abiding concern was the jobs and livelihoods of Singaporeans.
G2. To help workers and employers navigate through the storm, MOM and tripartite partners acted quickly. We convened the National Wages Council, or NWC, soon after the start of the pandemic in March 2020, to guide employers on how they could sustain their businesses and save jobs. Tripartite partners also issued and updated numerous advisories on matters ranging from leave arrangements during quarantine, managing excess manpower and responsible retrenchment, to workplace vaccination policies. The NWC guidelines and many of the advisories were negotiated under pressing timelines but they provided fair and balanced guidance for both workers and employers. This was only possible through and with the trust among tripartite partners that has been painstakingly built up over the past many decades.
G3. To expand opportunities for jobseekers amidst uncertainty and disruptions, the National Jobs Council, or NJC, was formed to oversee the design and implementation of the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package, which supported locals to enter new jobs, to upskill themselves or to be better positioned for the recovery. Various members of the NJC, including unions and business leaders, mobilised their respective networks, their expertise and their resources to support jobseekers to enter into new opportunities. Mr Yip Hon Weng also spoke earlier about assistance to workers who were retrenched. Where retrenchments were inevitable, the Taskforce for Responsible Retrenchment and Employment Facilitation (RTF) reached out to affected local employees to offer employment support, including the provision of information kits on career resources and job fairs. Workers were also supported through matching of excess manpower across industries, skills upgrading efforts, and career coaching and advisory initiatives.
G4. Taken together, the collective efforts of the Government, the unions, and the employers achieved significant scale in supporting jobs and livelihoods. From April 2020 to April 2022, around 200,000 locals were placed into jobs and skills opportunities under the SGUnited Jobs & Skills Package. Besides, over 744,000 jobseekers were hired with support under the Jobs Growth Incentive, which encouraged local hiring in growing firms as the focus shifted to supporting recovery.
G5. In addition, to help self-employed persons whose livelihoods were affected by the period of extraordinary economic uncertainty, we introduced the Self-Employed Persons Income Relief Scheme or (SIRS) for self-employed persons with less means and family support. Close to 200,000 self-employed persons benefitted from SIRS. We appreciate NTUC for stepping forward to help with the appeals for SIRS. Additional support for self-employed individuals such as taxi and private hire car drivers also came in the form of other Government schemes like the COVID-19 Driver Relief Fund. This support was disbursed by taxi and platform operators, who also helped their drivers with rental relief and commission rates.
G6. These efforts contributed to the recovery of the labour market even before the pandemic ended. By December 2020, resident employment had rebounded to slightly above pre-COVID-19 levels with the net number of residents in employment for the year increasing by 14,900, despite contractions in the first half of 2020. The resident unemployment rate stayed below 5% throughout 2020 even when economic conditions were at their worst, and eventually recovered to pre-pandemic levels in 2022.
G7. We have drawn useful takeaways from the experience of COVID-19.
G8. First, we found that accessibility is key to the delivery of employment facilitation services. The establishment of the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Centres in all 24 HDB towns was accompanied by improved sentiments towards government employment facilitation, which suggested that the increased accessibility and physical presence of these job matching services could have helped to reduce anxiety of jobseekers. Post-COVID-19, we have maintained the network of Jobs and Skills Centres as readily accessible touchpoints for jobseekers in the heartlands.
G9. Second, we have expanded the diversity of channels available to support employment of jobseekers. For example, the new SGUnited Mid-Career Pathways Programme introduced during COVID-19 has allowed employers to evaluate job fit through company attachments and facilitated positive employment outcomes for trainees. Amongst those who had completed or exited the programme, around eight in ten found employment within six months. Among the trainees who found employment, more than half earned the same or higher wages compared to the last drawn wages prior to onboarding. We have therefore regularised the programme from April 2022, to provide more options to mature jobseekers. Ms Janet Ang asked how the Government intends to use the jobs and skills initiatives to correct structural employment misalignment for vulnerable jobseekers. To do more for specific groups that may need greater support to secure employment, the Government had announced enhancements to the Enabling Employment Credit at Budget 2023 and introduced a new Uplifting Employment Credit to encourage employers to hire persons with disabilities and ex-offenders respectively.
G10. Third, and importantly, COVID-19 has also demonstrated that we should and must continue to build on tripartite trust and partnerships as a key competitive advantage for Singapore. Our ability to navigate to tide through the worst of the crisis was a testament to the importance of the strong tripartite partnership. Like the ballast of our ship, strong trust and partnerships will allow Singapore to make steady progress no matter the winds and waves ahead.
H - CONCLUSION- INSTITUTIONALISING LASTING CHANGE
H1. Distilling lessons from the pandemic, we have made permanent structural reforms in our migrant worker management capabilities and the ecosystem of support for the local workforce so as to institutionalise lasting change. Care for our migrant workers has been reinforced in three key ways. First, we have improved standards for migrant worker dormitories and will be expanding the coverage of FEDA. Second, we have set up a new primary healthcare systems and Primary Care Plan for migrant workers. Third, we have better capabilities to improve migrant worker mental health with Project DAWN. For the local workforce, we have enhanced the accessibility and diversity of channels to support jobseekers in securing employment and career transitions. Above all, we have built and strengthened relationships and networks with both public and private stakeholders, to help us weather future storms.
H2. COVID-19 indeed fell on us like a heavy storm, but together we weathered the worst and were able to build back stronger. The mettle of our workforce was put to the test, and we showcased our resilience by facing the challenges with grit and gumption. I have said it earlier, but let me say it again - If not for the sacrifices of each and every one of us here in Singapore, we could have come out of the pandemic in far worse shape.
H3. Stefanie Sun’s song, “We will get there”, was resung by Aisyah Aziz with images of various workers struggling through the pandemic, and the video tells the story of the many sacrifices all of us made. Many of us will have felt our stories told by the images interspersed through the video. As the lyrics go, “We’ve struggled through the darkest storms, with family and friends, together we’ll stand, and in the end, hand in hand, we will get there”. Mr Deputy Speaker Sir, while we are yet to reach journey’s end, we have indeed come through the storm, together.