Madam Halimah tears up as she expresses appreciation for Covid service staff, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper
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Madam Halimah tears up as she expresses appreciation for Covid service staff

After nearly three decades of service as an air traffic controller with the Republic of Singapore Air Force, Ms Josephine Nahammal was ready to retire in 2020.

But when the 54-year-old saw an e-mail from the career transition office for a managerial position at the case management task group in the Ministry of Health (MOH) to assist in the Covid-19 pandemic, she put her plans on hold.

"I have handled operations in RSAF, so I thought my experiences are relevant and I can definitely contribute to Singapore's effort (against the Covid-19 pandemic)," Ms Josephine said.

She is now leading a team and overseeing the planning and allocation of patients based on care requirements to the appropriate facilities and collaborating with personnel from MOH and external agencies to ensure that the right care and medical treatment are allocated to the patients.

Ms Josephine was one of the 25 Covid-19 service staff from the MOH's Crisis Strategy and Operations Group invited to the third #ServingSG appreciation event at the Istana on Thursday (Jan 27).

At the event, President Halimah Yacob became emotional after a video screening of the song Singapore Stands By You by singers Aisyah Aziz, Benjamin Kheng, Weish (Chew Wei Shan) and Shabir Tabare Alam, and held back tears as she began her speech.

She noted that Singapore had just crossed the two-year mark of Covid-19, and expressed her appreciation for Covid-19 service staff.

"Your contributions position Singapore and Singaporeans to better face the challenges that lie ahead," she said.

Madam Halimah apologised that they could not accommodate more people due to the safe distancing measures, and added that more appreciation should be given to these staff.

"I hope that more Singaporeans would appreciate the work that you have done," she said.

"It's not easy. It's extremely difficult because you have to do work which I think a lot of people would rather not do because they're concerned with their own safety, their health, their family, but you are doing your very best," she added.

"I hope on a daily basis, people will remember that and will continue to show their support and appreciate the work that you do." 

In her speech, Madam Halimah also noted that The Straits Times last week published a book, In This Together: Singapore's Covid-19 Story, chronicling the nation's fight against the pandemic.

After her speech, she interacted with the MOH staff before presenting them with a token of appreciation.

Said Ms Josephine: "I felt very honoured and very touched that the President shared how much our efforts meant to her. It makes all the long hours (that I have contributed) worth it."

Another person who received a token of appreciation was Mr Samuel Goh, an executive officer at the epidemiology team at the MOH. The 28-year-old, who worked as a pharmacist previously, said he decided to join MOH in September 2021.

Mr Goh said: "The reason why I decided to switch to a career in public health is to be able to achieve a greater impact in terms of positive health outcomes."

Since then, he has been involved in investigating Covid-19 clusters across Singapore and variants of notable concern, such as the Omicron, and surveilling potential clusters across Singapore.

As contact tracing sessions take place on a daily basis, Mr Goh, who lives with his grandmother, parents and younger sister, said he often has to sacrifice family time.

"My family has shown a lot of understanding in terms of the change in work hours and the additional risk that they are facing. They have been checking on me regularly, so I am really grateful for their support," he added.

Mr Goh described his first visit to the Istana as an eye-opening experience, and added: "I think this event is a nice gesture and a good opportunity to show recognition to not just the people in my team, but also other task groups that have been an integral part to MOH's operation."

Halimah Yacobistanacovid-19