Bright spots in 2020: the coming of age of Singapore’s biomedical efforts

Bright spots

2020 was not all bad news. There were bright spots too and these bright spots give us hope for the future, Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said in his New Year message.

A bright spot: a stronger community

Through this pandemic, we became a stronger community, Mr Tharman said in a Facebook post.

“People found ways all over the island to help others, especially the elderly and those most in need during our circuit breaker. The nation saluted our workers, for their bravery and dedication. Those who keep our transport system going, those who do the delivery, cleaning and other essential services behind the scenes – they all gained respect. So too our migrant workers, who had it really tough during the peak of the virus’ outbreak,” he wrote.

Another bright spot: immense achievements in medical science and tech

The immense achievements in medical science and tech is another bright spot this year, said Mr Tharman. “They enable us now to see the light at the end of the Covid tunnel.”

Take science seriously!

We must take science seriously and shape our responses based on scientific evidence on the spread of the virus and not what we would like to believe, Mr Tharman stressed. “The countries that have denied the science and evidence are in very bad shape today,” he added.

“Follow the scientific advice, and act in the public interest.”

Mr Tharman emphasized the need to keep that spirit of public responsibility that people have shown. “We only defeat the virus if everyone follows the rules, even when they are a pain. It is how we have brought infections down to very low levels in Singapore and minimised fatalities.”

“Follow the scientific advice, and act in the public interest. It is how we will all stay safe, and eventually emerge from Covid-19,” Mr Tharman said.

Be patient

We will not be truly past until much of the world’s populations are vaccinated. This could take a long time, so we must be patient, said Mr Tharman.

Coming of age for Singapore’s biomedical efforts

2020 has been a remarkable year for science, Mr Tharman said. Breakthroughs came at record speed, starting with the sequencing of the virus’ genome within just a few days in in early January 2020 and the development of rapid diagnostic tests. The unprecedented speed with which vaccines are developed has now enabled us to begin immunizing our population. “It has also been a huge global effort involving thousands of scientists (designers and engineers too), many of whom pivoting away from their usual areas of specialization to join in the fight against Covid-19.”

It has also been a coming of age for Singapore’s biomedical efforts, said Mr Tharman.

Our scientists stand among the leaders globally in the development of fast and accurate to detect the virus, and tests to detect antibodies that neutralize the virus. The new test developed by a team at Duke-NUS Medical school and A*STAR to detect neutralizing antibodies was the first of its kind to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in November 2020.

Mr Tharman said some of the technologies developed to fight will also help in tackling new diseases that will emerge in the future – by enabling faster diagnosis as well as the development of vaccines than has been possible in the past.

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