SINGAPORE: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday said that the COVID-19 crisis is "far from over" and it will take a year or two before a vaccine is widely available as the country is celebrating the 55 years of independence.
Singapore's National Day is celebrated on August 9 every year in commemoration of the country's independence from Malaysia in 1965.
Lee, in his National Day speech, said that Singaporeans are understandably anxious and worried due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Business closures, retrenchments and unemployment are all likely to go up in the coming months, he said.
The COVID-19 crisis is "far from over" and it will take a year or two before a vaccine is widely available, Lee said.
"Until then, we have to maintain our vigilance and resolve, to keep ourselves, our loved ones and our neighbours all safe," the prime minister said.
However, this is not Singapore's first economic crisis, he said, citing the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in the US and the global financial crisis of 2007 to 2009.
"Each time the outlook was ominous and we feared the worst, but each time we worked hard to secure our position, gritted our teeth and came through together.
"I am confident we will get through this current crisis too, though it may take longer. All of us must do our part, but none of us will be alone," Lee said.
He said that the government is "actively helping" people find jobs and acquire new skills.
The job support scheme and self-employed person income relief scheme will ease the burden on employers and individuals.
The prime minister urged the employers to "make every effort" to keep their workers and "not drop them at the first sign of trouble. This will build loyalty and encourage the employees to help their employers rebuild when conditions improve."
Singapore's experience in fighting COVID-19 has brought people closer together.
"The shared ordeal will toughen a whole population and bond us together as one united people.
"Just like how the Pioneer and Merdeka Generations were tempered by Separation and Independence, and economic crises in our early years as a nation," Lee said.
The premier also acknowledged the contributions of Singaporeans and migrant workers who participated in services and activities in the fight against the COVID-19.
"Migrant workers too played their part to support these operations. Their help was deeply appreciated by our SAF (Singapore Armed Forces), Home Team and public officers.
"Let us brace ourselves for the trials ahead, so that many years from now, when our grandchildren celebrate the National Day, they will look back on these times and say yes, this generation stood together, sacrificed for one another and built Singapore for us," he said.
As of Saturday, Singapore's COVID-19 tally stands at 54,929, out of whom 48,312 have recovered, 124 are in hospitals while 6,334 being cared for in community facilities for mild symptoms, according to health officials.