HELP DURING PANDEMIC
Dr Balakrishnan also spoke about how the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) supported Singaporeans and other countries during COVID-19, noting that the ministry has helped bring home more than 4,600 Singaporeans from overseas since the pandemic broke out in 2020.
He also commended the dedication of MFA employees during the pandemic.
“Over 300 MFA officers have served Singapore and our overseas mission during this period, and I am very proud that not a single officer has asked to leave post because of the risk of the pandemic,” he said.
About 40 MFA officers who were overseas as well as more than 150 foreigners employed at overseas missions contracted COVID-19 “despite our best efforts and health precautions”, said Dr Balakrishnan.
COVID-19 will not be the last or worst pandemic faced by the world, he said, adding that Singapore will continue to work with the international community, including through the World Health Organization, to strengthen the global health architecture and enhance pandemic preparedness and resilience.
Globally, Singapore contributed to the COVAX Advance Market Commitment and the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund, he noted.
“We donated our entitlements to our neighbours. We also responded quickly to urgent medical needs by sending medical supplies,” he added.
These include more than 500 tonnes of liquid oxygen to Indonesia and 120,000 vaccine doses to Batam and the Riau Islands, as well as 100,000 vaccine doses to Malaysia and 200,000 doses to Brunei.
Singapore also sent a consignment of 256 oxygen cylinders to support India’s pandemic response at the height of its second wave in April last year.
RELATIONS WITH MALAYSIA
Singapore has maintained its “very close” relationship with Malaysia, Dr Balakrishnan said.
“I would say it’s probably even been strengthened by our shared experience of COVID-19,” he added, noting that bilateral engagements continued both informally and formally throughout the pandemic.
“At times of greatest need, we were available for each other,” he said, adding that the two countries made sure that supply chains both ways never failed “even in the depths of the crisis”.
Singapore and Malaysia also worked closely to restore connectivity, with the launch of vaccinated travel lanes for both land and air travel in November last year.
These have helped restore some of the pre-pandemic flow of tourists and business travellers and reunite families on both sides of the Causeway, Dr Balakrishnan said.
“We all look forward to expanding cross-border travel progressively and safely and hopefully at some point, back to pre-pandemic levels,” he added.