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Frontline fighters in the ongoing battle against Covid-19 are The Straits Times Singaporeans of the Year 2020

Singapore, 2 February 2021 - Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, an army of front-liners spared no effort to keep Singapore safe, working long hours and exposing themselves to possible risks of infection. 

For their unstinting dedication to their jobs and personal sacrifices, and for being an inspiration to a country facing its greatest crisis in decades, these frontline fighters against Covid-19 are named Singaporeans of the Year 2020. 

Some worked long hours in personal protective equipment, drenched in sweat. Others researched vaccines and made sure healthcare operations ran smoothly. Collectively, their efforts helped Singapore keep its Covid-19 death rate low, and manage the outbreak well at a time when infections continue to recur globally.

These heroes are represented by: 

  1. Mr Abdul Wahab, a nurse clinician in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) 

  2. Mr Benson Ng, who signed up to be a swabber for Covid-19 tests

  3. Mr Nigel Quek, commanding officer at Certis' Integrated Quarantine Order Services

  4. Professor Ooi Eng Eong, co-developer of Singapore's sole Sars-CoV-2 vaccine currently in human trials

  5. Professor Leo Yee Sin, executive director of NCID

They received the award from President Halimah Yacob, who was the guest-of-honour and patron of The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year 2020 award ceremony held today (Feb 2) at the Istana.

The award ceremony was streamed on The Straits Times Facebook and Youtube channels from 3.30pm today.

Organised by The Straits Times and presented by UBS Singapore, the Singaporean of the Year award is given each year to a Singaporean individual or group that has made an impact in society. This could be through achievements which have put Singapore on the world stage, or for improving the lives of others in the community, or showing resilience in the face of adversity. The award is now in its sixth year.

Last year's award was won by Ms Angie Chew, founder of Brahm Centre, for her efforts in providing vulnerable Singaporeans with emotional and mental support and helping the elderly through the charity.

Previous winners of the award, which was first given out in 2015, include Ms Siti Noor Mastura, who co-founded non-profit organisation Interfaith Youth Circle; Dr Goh Wei Leong and Healthserve, an organisation that provides migrant workers with affordable healthcare; Olympic gold medallist Joseph Schooling and his parents May and Colin; and Madam Noriza A. Mansor, who won hearts when she helped an elderly man who had soiled himself in public.

There were eight finalists this year. They include retired cleaner Zulkifli Atnawi, 60, who was a lifeline for his neighbours struggling to cope with the pandemic, and together with his children, started Project Hills to expand the help to others; as well as social activist Cai Yinzhou, 30, who was the first to flag the need to keep migrant workers safe amid Covid-19 and is a forerunner in efforts to break down social barriers between Singaporeans and migrant workers; and retired factory worker Lim Ee Chin, 81, who rushed to fill pails of water to help extinguish a raging fire in her neighbour’s flat. (See attachment for full list of finalists).

A judging panel of 13 as well as online voting by members of the public contributed to the final decision. Judges included editors from The Straits Times, social entrepreneur and activist Saleemah Ismail, Senior Vice President, Corporate Planning, of Singapore Airlines Lee Wen Fen and Institute of Technical Education Chief Executive Low Khah Gek (See attachment for full list of judges).

The winner of the Singaporean of the Year 2020 award was presented with $50,000 in cash and a trophy while the other seven finalists, whether individuals or groups, received $5,000. The prize money is sponsored by UBS. 

Other sponsors include airline partner Singapore Airlines (SIA) and hotel partner Millennium Hotels and Resorts. SIA will give five pairs of business-class tickets to the winning group and up to three pairs of economy-class tickets to each finalist. Millennium Hotels and Resorts will give five 5-day accommodation sets to any of the global properties owned and managed by MHR to the winning group and up to three 3-day accommodation sets to each of the finalists. 

Mr Warren Fernandez, editor-in-chief of SPH's English/Malay/Tamil Media group and Editor of The Straits Times, said: “In a difficult year we will all long remember, many people did some extraordinary things.  There were acts of heroism, coming to the aid of neighbours in need. There were those who pressed ahead despite the crisis, and made a mark in their business or social enterprise.  

“But ultimately, it was a year when our frontline heroes made all the difference to the lives and livelihoods of Singaporeans. There were so many who played a part - doctors, nurses, epidemiologists and scientists, contact tracers and swabbers, volunteers and retired healthcare workers who came forward to help tackle the situation in the dormitories - all pitching in to help see Singapore through. In the end, it was Singaporeans and Singapore, that was the better for it, and we wanted to celebrate that broad collective effort.”

Mr. Edmund Koh, President, UBS APAC, said: “2020 was a challenging year for many in our society. Faced with the difficulties of disrupted normality, it is extremely inspiring to hear the stories of our amazing finalists, who not only overcame their own challenges but found opportunities to help  others in their community. Not only have they displayed courage and perseverance in their fields, but also inspired and encouraged those around them to follow the path they have spearheaded. Our congratulations to all the finalists who have made a significant positive impact, and a special salute to the Front-line fighters against Covid-19. You all led the way with your leadership and unselfish dedication to your jobs, and represent the very best of Singapore in our fight against Covid-19.”

For more information about the award, visit


Singaporean of the Year 2020 – Citations 

Singaporean of the Year 2020 – Judging Panel

SOTY2020 composite logo - logo

Issued by Singapore Press Holdings Ltd

Regn. No. 198402868E


For more information, please contact: 

Shahrena Hassan (Ms)

Senior Manager

Editorial Projects English, Malay and Tamil Media Group

Singapore Press Holdings Limited

DID: 6319 5097



Jackson Thia (Mr)

Assistant Manager

Corporate Communications & CSR

Singapore Press Holdings Limited

DID: 6319 1872


About The Straits Times 

The Straits Times, the English-language flagship daily of Singapore Press Holdings, is the most-read newspaper in Singapore and is followed widely in the region for its comprehensive multimedia coverage of local, regional and world news, provided by its correspondents in 12 bureaus in major cities worldwide. 

Launched on July 15, 1845, The Straits Times has been moving with the times in its efforts to engage and grow its audience and exploring innovative ways of storytelling, as well as continuously refreshing its products to maintain quality and stay relevant to the changing needs of its readers. Its integrated newsroom operates round-the-clock, providing content as it happens on all platforms, from its website at, Apple and Android apps to social media.

The Straits Times is a member of two media networks - the Asia News Network and the Impact Journalism Day alliance of newspapers - and it has won multiple international media awards, including from the Society of Publishers in Asia, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, the Pacific Area Newspaper Publishers' Association (Panpa), Society of News Design and WAN-IFRA. Its multimedia newsroom and innovative projects were recognised at the Asian Digital Media Awards 2020 presented by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), when it clinched a Gold for Best in Lifestyle, Sports, Entertainment Website or Mobile Services. The Straits Times also won the INMA Global Media Awards in 2020 for its campaign that tailored news on COVID-19 for students.

About Singapore Press Holdings Ltd

Incorporated in 1984, main board-listed Singapore Press Holdings Ltd (SPH) is Asia's leading media organisation, engaging minds and enriching lives across multiple languages and platforms.  

SPH's core business is in the publishing of newspapers, magazines and books in both print and digital editions. It also owns other digital products, online classifieds, radio stations and outdoor media.

On the property front, SPH owns approximately 65% in SPH REIT whose portfolio comprises three properties in Singapore, namely Paragon, The Clementi Mall and The Rail Mall. In Australia, SPH REIT holds an 85% stake in Figtree Grove Shopping Centre and a 50% stake in Westfield Marion Shopping Centre.

SPH also owns and operates The Seletar Mall and is developing an integrated development consisting of The Woodleigh Residences and The Woodleigh Mall. It is also an owner, manager and developer of a portfolio of Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) in the United Kingdom and Germany. It currently operates two distinctive brands, Student Castle and Capitol Students.

It is in the aged care sector in Singapore and Japan, and owns Orange Valley, one of Singapore's largest nursing homes. 

SPH runs a regional events arm. It also invested in the education business.

For more information, please visit


Twitter: @official_sph

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Instagram: @singaporepressholdings