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PM Lee and DPM Heng recall how lucky it was that the NCID opened well before COVID hit

"None of us would have expected then that within months of its opening, the world would be engulfed by a global pandemic," said DPM Heng

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Both Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat recalled how fortuitous it was that the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) was opened well before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Singapore, on the first anniversary of the NCID opening.

Singapore’s first quarantine facility was opened in 1913 at Moulmein Road. The facility was first named the Isolation Hospital before being renamed to the Middleton Hospital in 1920, in recognition of Dr. W.R.C Middleton, who had served the hospital for 27 years, upon his retirement.

The centre became a branch of Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) in 1985, was renamed the Communicable Disease Centre (CDC), and came under the management of the National Healthcare Group. A decade late, on 1 April 1995, it came under TTSH’s direct administration.

The CDC was the central point of operations when Singapore dealt with the Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003. After 11 years of operations, the CDC ceased operations as a medical facility on 13 December 2018 as operations shifted to the new NCID facility.

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The NCID, which is a part of TTSH like the CDC was, was built to better strengthen Singapore’s ability to respond effectively to infectious outbreaks. Equipped with state-of-the-art technology, the 330-bed purpose-built facility was designed to manage an outbreak the size of the SARS outbreak and houses Singapore’s first high-level isolation unit for highly contagious, lethal diseases.

The new facility became operational in May 2019 and was officially opened by Health Minister Gan Kim Yong on 7 September 2019.

Just a few months later, the COVID-19 pandemic hit Singapore and the NCID was quickly used as an isolation facility for patients infected with the novel coronavirus.

To date, Singapore has seen a total of 57,091 cases – primarily among migrant workers after the infection spread like wildfire in the foreign worker dormitories. 56,461 individuals have been discharged, 555 patients are in isolation while 48 patients are hospitalised. There have been 27 disease-linked fatalities.

On Monday (7 Sept), the two most prominent Government leaders shared about how timely the opening of the NCID has become in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, in separate social media posts published to mark the first anniversary of NCID’s official opening.

Asserting that the fortuitous opening of the NCID was due to years of planning and hard work and that Singapore’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic would have been very different without the NCID, PM Lee wrote:

“Today marks one year since the official opening of the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH). Never was the opening of a medical facility so timely and fortuitous, as NCID found itself at the forefront of our fight against COVID-19 just a few months later.

“We were lucky that NCID was up and running before COVID-19 hit us, but this did not happen by chance. It was the result of years of planning and hard work by government agencies, medical and research institutions, and healthcare partners. Without this, our response to the pandemic would have been very different.”

Wishing NCID a “happy birthday,” the head of government added: “NCID, and all our medical and healthcare institutions and workers, remain our first line of defence against the pandemic. Our situation is stable for now, but the battle is far from won. Let us each continue to do our part by staying vigilant and socially responsible. Congratulations and happy birthday, NCID!”

Similarly, Mr Heng – who also serves as Finance Minister – spoke about how the NCID has been at the heart of the Government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic that arose unexpectedly months within the facility’s opening. Revealing that the SARS outbreak was a factor that led to the establishment of the NCID, the PM-in-waiting said:

“We officially opened the National Centre of Infectious Diseases (NCID) one year ago. Learning from SARS, we had to strengthen our capabilities to deal with infectious diseases to be better prepared for the next pandemic. This led to the establishment of NCID.

“None of us would have expected then that within months of its opening, the world would be engulfed by a global pandemic. The dedicated and highly-skilled team at NCID has been at the heart of our battle against COVID-19 since Day 1. Many months on, they continue to give their best in this long drawn fight.”

He said: “Thank you to all of you at NCID and to our healthcare and frontline workers for keeping us safe.”

We officially opened the National Centre of Infectious Diseases (NCID) one year ago. Learning from SARS, we had to…

Posted by Heng Swee Keat on Monday, 7 September 2020

Today marks one year since the official opening of the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) at Tan Tock Seng…

Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday, 6 September 2020

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