Tatler Heroes: Individuals Around Asia Leading The Fight Against Covid-19
- Dr Tom Kong, Hong KongDr Tom Kong, Hong Kong
- Wesley Ng, Hong KongWesley Ng, Hong Kong
- Danny Yeung, Hong KongDanny Yeung, Hong Kong
- Joseph and Clara Tsai, Hong KongJoseph and Clara Tsai, Hong Kong
- Li Ka-shing, Hong KongLi Ka-shing, Hong Kong
- Peter and Martin Lee, Hong KongPeter and Martin Lee, Hong Kong
- Dr Narin Hiransuthikul, ThailandDr Narin Hiransuthikul, Thailand
- Sireethorn Leearamwat, ThailandSireethorn Leearamwat, Thailand
- Dr Yong Poovorawan, ThailandDr Yong Poovorawan, Thailand
- Panachit Kittipanya-ngam, ThailandPanachit Kittipanya-ngam, Thailand
- Rashvin Pal Singh, MalaysiaRashvin Pal Singh, Malaysia
- Vivy Yusof and Fadza Anuar, MalaysiaVivy Yusof and Fadza Anuar, Malaysia
- Zatasha Idris, MalaysiaZatasha Idris, Malaysia
- Melinda Looi, MalaysiaMelinda Looi, Malaysia
- Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, MalaysiaDr Noor Hisham Abdullah, Malaysia
- Maia Estianty, IndonesiaMaia Estianty, Indonesia
- Tahir, IndonesiaTahir, Indonesia
- Dr David Ho, TaiwanDr David Ho, Taiwan
- Audrey Tang, TaiwanAudrey Tang, Taiwan
- Chen Shih-chung, TaiwanChen Shih-chung, Taiwan
- James Dyson, SingaporeJames Dyson, Singapore
- Martin Tan, SingaporeMartin Tan, Singapore
- Han Li Guang, SingaporeHan Li Guang, Singapore
- Tan Min-liang, SingaporeTan Min-liang, Singapore
- Dr Zhang Wenhong, ChinaDr Zhang Wenhong, China
- Jack Ma, ChinaJack Ma, China
- Hans Sy, PhilippinesHans Sy, Philippines
- Abba Napa, PhilippinesAbba Napa, Philippines
- Senator Manny PacquiaoSenator Manny Pacquiao
We salute those in Asia who are leading the fight against the Covid-19 crisis
Businessmen transforming their factories into cleanrooms for face mask production. Tycoons donating medical supplies to desperate nations around the world. Doctors rising above politics to deliver guidance for the public and clear reports on the progress of their efforts.
Throughout our communities, powerful voices are using their influence to bring hope through their actions, their ideas and their examples.
Dr Tom Kong, Hong Kong
CEO and co-founder, Master Dynamic
As the CEO and co-founder of Master Dynamic, Dr Tom Kong oversees several high-tech labs in the region, including this one in Hong Kong Science Park at Shatin that specialises in quantum technology research, with a particular focus on practical applications using tiny carbon particles produced by high-energy processing.
Wesley Ng, Hong Kong
Founder and CEO, Casetify
Sanitising our phones is one of the most overlooked habits we should be adopting now. To this end, Hong Kong start-up Casetify has launched a UV sanitiser that uses radiation-free lights to kill 99.9 per cent of bacteria as part of its #CasetifyProtects initiative. “The UV sanitiser was actually something we’ve had up our sleeve for a while now, already developed and tested by Casetify,” says Ng, adding that with the current situation, it made sense to release the product now. “We want to protect those in need and the quicker we’re able to do it, the more people we can help.
Danny Yeung, Hong Kong
CEO and founder, Prenetics
Hong Kong-based genetic testing and digital health company Prenetics—better known by its signature product, CircleDNA—has announced that it will work with several collaborators to expand Covid-19 testing across the city. The nonprofit Project Screen will allow people to receive and return at-home test kits, with results in 24 hours, at a cost of HK$985, HK$300 of which will be subsidised for frontliners and their families by Prudential Hong Kong. “No one company can do it all and it’s just amazing we have the support of so many industry leaders,” Yeung says. “We felt it was our responsibility to do everything we possibly can for the community.”
Joseph and Clara Tsai, Hong Kong
Billionaire couple Joseph and Clara Tsai made headlines worldwide in April when they donated 2.6 million masks, 170,000 pairs of protective goggles and 2,000 ventilators to New York. “We kept hearing cries for (personal protective equipment) from our community and wanted to help,” Clara told CNN.
The couple split their time between Hong Kong, California and New York, where Joseph, who made his fortune as a co-founder of Alibaba, is the owner of the NBA team the Brooklyn Nets. Although basketball season has been postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Joseph has committed to paying hourly workers at the Nets’ home court, Barclays Center, until at least the end of May.
The Tsais’ donation of protective equipment and ventilators arrived in New York as the city and state became the hardest-hit region in the world, with more cases of coronavirus and deaths than have been recorded in the whole of China since the start of the outbreak. In his televised daily briefing, Governor Andrew Cuomo thanked the couple, saying that the donation was “really good news” and “this is a big deal and it’s going to make a significant difference for us”.
Li Ka-shing, Hong Kong
Superman by name, Superman by nature.
Ninety-one-year-old Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing—who was given the nickname decades ago for the huge influence he wields over the city’s economy—sprang into action soon after the Covid-19 virus emerged in Wuhan, donating HK$100 million to the Chinese city in early February. That money was used to support healthcare workers through the magnate’s Li Ka-shing Foundation, which is the second-largest private foundation in the world after that of Bill and Melinda Gates.
A week later, he gave a total of 250,000 face masks to 13 social-welfare organisations and six homes for the elderly in Hong Kong, as well as batches of medical supplies— including in-demand N95 masks—to doctors in public hospitals.
Some of Li’s previous philanthropic work—he has donated more than US$3 billion so far—is also bearing fruit during the current crisis.
His HK$214 million donation to the University of Alberta in Canada in 2010 led to the establishment of the Li Ka-shing Institute of Virology, which is currently conducting promising research into the best ways to test, treat and vaccinate against Covid-19.
Similar research is being conducted at the Li Ka-shing Faculty of Medicine at the University of Hong Kong, to which Li donated HK$1 billion in 2005.
The faculty’s website on the subject of Covid-19 has become a go-to resource for governments and the public, offering everything from the latest research papers to easy-to-understand fact sheets on the virus. The site also includes mindfulness activities and exercise classes geared towards people at home in lockdown.
Neither Li nor his foundation has announced what initiative or organisation they will be supporting next. But like Superman, he is likely to appear when you need him most.
Peter and Martin Lee, Hong Kong
Chairmen, Henderson Land
In late January, Peter and Martin Lee, who took over Hong Kong property developer Henderson Land from their father, Lee Shau-kee, last year, established the Henderson Development Anti-Epidemic Fund. “Since the outbreak of this epidemic, we have been garnering resources and liaising with various organisations and government departments in Hong Kong and Mainland China to provide the materials and support they need,” says Peter. The initiative is funded privately by the Lee family.
The pair first focused their attention on Wuhan and sponsored Traditional Chinese Medicine company Purapharm to manufacture a series of immunity-boosting formulas, more than 1.5 million packs of which have been distributed to patients in Mainland China and to the doctors and nurses treating them. They also worked with health supplement manufacturer Aland to produce 220,000 packs of vitamin C supplement and 460,000 energy bars for healthcare workers in Wuhan, many of whom worked nearly round the clock for weeks on end.
In their hometown of Hong Kong, the brothers have funded the sterilisation of public transport, including ferries, school buses and all of the roughly 4,600 minibuses and 20,000 taxis in the city. The process uses a new cleaning product called Raze, which kills pathogens that land on surfaces and is effective for up to three months. Peter is an investor in Raze and hopes to offer it to restaurants as well.
Martin funded one million masks for underprivileged children through Unicef Hong Kong, and the brothers gave 2,000 laptop computers to students in need. “My four children need to shift to online classes due to school suspension over the epidemic, and they are still adapting to this new learning mode,” says Martin. “The new online learning mode is causing a financial burden for [some] families. It is for this reason that we are giving laptop computers with full data provision to students in need, so they can continue to study at home and stay safe.”
And the brothers are committed to giving more. “The Henderson Development Anti-Epidemic Fund will continue to closely monitor the pandemic and will respond promptly to society’s needs,” says Peter.
Dr Narin Hiransuthikul, Thailand
Professor Dr Narin is the head of Chulalongkorn University’s Covid-19 emergency operation centre and one of Thailand’s top experts in disease and epidemiology. His team developed a Covid-19 strip test that delivers results in 15 minutes. After more than 100 trials, tests have shown a 95 per cent accuracy rate. The strip testing service is now available at Chulalongkorn University by first registering online. He explains that while the Chula Covid-19 test strips do not replace conventional polymerase chain reaction tests, the goal is to ease the burden on hospitals as more and more people visit them to be tested.
Sireethorn Leearamwat, Thailand
As a girl, Sireethorn Leearamwat dreamt of becoming a beauty queen because she saw the role as a way of helping others. After graduating in 2018, she went to work as a pharmaceutical sales representative, but at the age of 25 she entered and won the Miss Thailand 2019 beauty pageant and has taken on the role of a cultural and tourism ambassador with aplomb.
To alleviate pressing face mask shortages, particularly for healthcare workers, Sireethorn, together with Prangphisut Daengdej, has established Mask Bank. One of the growing concerns in Thailand is that face masks had become wildly overpriced.
With a goal of raising THB100 million, Mask Bank aims to present a long-term solution by building factories to make them for THB2.50 per piece. Her Kickstarter campaign has a minimum purchase of THB1,000 for 400 masks, with 200 for personal use and the other half to be donated to the buyer’s choice of medical institution or organisation. The project has already raised over THB20 million and Sireethorn hopes to be able to start producing masks soon.
Dr Yong Poovorawan, Thailand
The fourth of six siblings, 69-year-old medical professor Dr Yong Poovorawan had early aspirations to follow in the footsteps of his older brothers and study engineering. But his eldest brother advised him to pursue medicine and eventually Yong enrolled at the Faculty of Medicine at Chulalongkorn University, from which he graduated in 1972. He continued his studies with a diploma in pediatrics and certification from the Medical Council of Thailand, and was offered a research fellowship at the Liver Sciences Department at King’s College Hospital Medical School in 1984.
Following his return, Yong obtained his professorship and lectured at the Department of Pediatrics at Chulalongkorn University. The current head of the Center of Excellence in Clinical Virology rose to international attention in 2004 for his work on genetic sequencing and the detection of the H5N1 avian influenza virus in Thailand, receiving awards from the Thailand Research Fund and the National Research Council for his efforts. More recently, he has spoken about the psychological effects of public panic during the Covid-19 outbreak.
As a leading expert in the field, Yong works with the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation and the Thai Red Cross Society to raise awareness of Covid-19 and how to cope with the daily challenges of self-isolation and social distancing measures. He is also spearheading testing of the use of blood plasma from recovered Covid-19 patients in the treatment of severe cases.
For Yong, as a medical professor, developing the next generation of qualified medical professionals is a priority. And he says he will lead by example, continuing to teach, conduct research and develop new methods that adopt technology because, as he points out, new diseases are part and parcel of modern life and future generations must be prepared to fight them.
Panachit Kittipanya-ngam, Thailand
Making use of his skills at the vanguard of the Covid-19 fight in Thailand is Panachit Kittipanya-ngam. As the Thailand Tech Start-up Association had an abundance of resources and skilled workers on hand to fight the coronavirus, Panachit gathered colleagues to form a group called Ped Thai Su Phai (Thai Ducks Fighting Danger).
With the sharing economy in mind, the project aims to match the right person to the right service—that means pairing the people who might be infected with the doctors they need.
One of Ped Thai Su Phai’s first initiatives was to create a site to offer accurate news and information. Using an online patient screening system, people can enter details of their symptoms to be evaluated into three different categories of risk. The data is sent to doctors and hospitals that can then establish consultations with prospective patients.
The project’s latest effort is an app called PedKeeper, which tackles the limitations of temperature screening by classifying users as high-risk or low-risk based on their recent travel abroad, using data supplied by the Department of Disease Control.
For his expertise in generating start-up businesses, Panachit was recognised with the National Start-up Leadership of the year award in 2016.
The Chulalongkorn University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in telecommunications engineering and a master’s in digital signal processing also holds a doctorate from the University of Manchester in imaging science and biomedical engineering.
Panachit began his professional career as a researcher at the A*Star institute in Singapore, where he spent six years before becoming the assistant director of True Corporation’s Innovation Center in 2014. He also aided the Thai government as the director of its innovation department and co-founded accounting services platform AccRevo, before dedicating his time to his role as president of the Thailand Tech Startup Association. In 2019, he established yet another one, Ztrus, an AI-based process automation firm.
Rashvin Pal Singh, Malaysia
CEO, Biji Biji Design
As part of efforts to decentralise production of safety equipment in Malaysia, Rashvin Pal is coordinating creative professionals and suppliers of laser cutters and 3D printers to remotely make face shields for hospitals. “A community of Malaysians has banded together to ensure that those risking their lives on the front lines are well protected,” says Rashvin Pal. “It is imperative that every organisation reimagines its relevance in this new world, and we continue to nurture and protect it with the utmost care and deeper unity.”
Vivy Yusof and Fadza Anuar, Malaysia
After Malaysians were ordered to stay home to stem the spread of Covid-19, businesswoman Vivy Yusof knew she would not be content to sit around doing nothing. So she and her husband, Fadza Anuar, started looking for a way they could give back.
“It all started on social media when I saw the chairman of Universiti Teknologi Mara, Dato Sri Syed Zainal, donating portable air conditioners to hospitals. So I contacted him to ask for hospital contacts. From there, I got in touch with some volunteers and donated air conditioners, laptops, cash and food to sustain them through their work,” she says.
The chief creative officer of FashionValet and dUCK has become a vocal advocate for the welfare of frontliners, using her influence to highlight their plight and what can be done to assist them.
“At first I wanted to do this discreetly, because I didn’t want people to think I was showing off. But then I realised I should tell others about this to inspire them to help and keep the momentum going. After all, that’s what made me help in the first place: I saw someone else doing it,” she says.
When requests started flooding her inbox, she decided to take a more active role and galvanised her supporters into action. Together with the Islamic Medical Association of Malaysia’s Response and Relief Team, Fadza and Vivy put together a crowdfunding site to help the frontliners.
In just a week, her FV Covid-19 Support Fund raised over RM1 million. The money has been used to purchase whatever the frontliners need, most recently fabrics for Malaysia’s fashion designers under MODA to sew PPE for the doctors and nurses.
Vivy says that she has been touched by the spirit of unity that brought together Malaysians in this time of need.
“I saw so much kindness from friends, local brands, followers and acquaintances—we got over 25,000 donors to the fund. It doesn’t matter whether it is a big sum or a small sum, everyone did what they could to help. So many celebrities helped, amazing people like Scha Alyahya and Marion Caunter even attached our fund page on their bio links. It humbled me to know how kind Malaysians can be,” she says.
Zatasha Idris, Malaysia
Zatashah Idris is renowned for her many social initiatives, from #saynotoplastic and #zerofoodwastage campaigns to her work feeding the needy through Kechara Soup Kitchen. She’s also on the board of trustees of the Food Bank Malaysia Foundation.
When the lockdown took effect, she heard from many daily-wage earners that they could not afford to put food on the table when they’re not able to go to work.
“Our main concern was to continue getting supplies to vulnerable communities,” says Zatashah. “It has proven tough, as the restrictions meant putting a halt on distributing food and supplies for a period of time.” Kechara Soup Kitchen revised its procedures to incorporate minimum distancing and protective masks, gloves and sanitisers.
“I’ve been helping from a distance by helping gain funding as well as getting approvals from the relevant parties,” Zatashah says.
“Despite the challenges, there is a silver lining,” she adds. “I was touched when several corporate sponsors and individuals reached out to me to ask how they can help out.”
Melinda Looi, Malaysia
In a show of solidarity, Malaysia’s biggest names in fashion came together to use their skills to sew PPE for medical frontliners in an initiative led by Malaysia Official Designers Association. The fashion community, including Radzuan Radziwill, Khoon Hooi, Celest Thoi, Alia Bastamam and their teams of seamstresses and volunteers, worked to cut fabrics and sew thousands of PPE items to meet the never-ending demand from local hospitals.
Touched by the countless acts of kindness she’s seen, MODA president Melinda Looi posted an Instagram video in which she said, “I have so much emotion going on, I can cry anytime, but these are tears of happiness to see people coming together.”
She also mentioned instances of frontliners sending private messages “saying how grateful they feel that they are finally not wearing, you know, garbage bags, but gowns that are made by people of Malaysia. It’s giving them a lot of encouragement, a lot of positive vibes, they feel loved.”
MODA has joined forces with FashionValet in a fundraising campaign to buy non-woven hospital-standard materials. MODA is also working with the Islamic Medical Association of Malaysia, which will distribute the gowns to its network of hospitals.
Meeting the demand is a major challenge even with a host of designers and volunteers who are working non-stop, as the production is entirely home-based. In an effort to let the public know the stakes, Looi noted, “A consumption of 15,000 sets of PPE items is needed per week per hospital.”
Her call didn’t go unheeded as more and more people are coming forward to help in whatever way they can, whether by monetary donations or lending their much-needed skills.
Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, Malaysia
Malaysia Director-General of Health
As Malaysia’s director-general of health, Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah has been leading the charge to contain the Covid-19 outbreak in the nation. In his daily briefings, the doctor uses facts as his main tools to combat the pandemic and allay the public’s fears.
Holding a master’s degree in surgery from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Noor Hisham is the head and senior consultant breast and endocrine surgeon in Putrajaya Hospital. He’s been called a “national hero” online, but he brushes this aside by responding: “It is not about me. What is important at the moment is what we can do together as one for the nation to break the chain of the Covid-19 transmission.”
Going by the approach of “expecting the worst, hoping for the best”, the Movement Control Order (MCO) was introduced from March 18 to help “flatten the curve”. After two weeks of the MCO, early signs showed that the government’s efforts are working.
According to a report by The Star newspaper, “the actual number of Covid-19 cases showed a lower trajectory compared to the projection done by the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research”.
The Health Ministry is presently working with the World Health Organisation to research a viable vaccine against Covid-19; however, Noor Hisham says that it will take a year or more before one is available.
“What is important is that Malaysia is included as part of a global research effort launched by WHO to start drug trials for Covid-19,” he said during a press conference.
The trial he was referring to is called Solidarity, and Malaysia was among the selected countries as it fulfilled criteria such as having a good medical system, well-trained local researchers and a suitable platform to conduct the tests.
Maia Estianty, Indonesia
Music producer and singer
People power is a force to be reckoned with, especially when it comes to the ardent fans of a star, which explains how Maia Estianty has raised more than Rp3.4 billion since the coronavirus first appeared in Indonesia. The fundraising is an ongoing project between the music producer and singer Maia with actress and businesswoman Cathy Sharon, who have a combined total of 16.1 million followers on Instagram and belong to a group of charitable women called the Tempe Gang.
“Since the virus spreads so quickly and Indonesia has experienced a shortage of supplies for its medical teams, we have to help out not only in Jakarta but also in other provinces where the situation is even more desperate,” Maia says. As of mid-April, funds have been distributed to 168 hospitals in eight provinces to purchase vitamins, supplements, disinfectants, soaps and many other essentials.
Some donations have been given directly to daily wage-earners. A soup kitchen is also planned to reach more people around Jakarta.
“This pandemic is a hard hit for the small enterprises that make up a large amount of the country’s workforce,” she says. “By staying positive and connected to the consumers, ideas will come from this time of re-learning and regrowth to remain afloat today, or to make a fresh start later on.”
Founder, Mayapada Group and the Tahir Foundation
The banking and property magnate and billionaire philanthropist Tahir—who goes by one name—is also a member of Indonesia’s Presidential Advisory Council. His foundation has given Rp52 billion in initial relief efforts through the Istiqlal Mosque, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Jakarta and the Council of Churches in Indonesia, as well as to facilities in other provinces. “By channelling these donations for those in need through the doors of places of worship, such as The High Priest of Istiqlal Mosque Nasaruddin Umar, we are uniting people from different socio-economic levels regardless of our ethnic and religious differences, and strengthening the relationship among fellow Indonesians,” says Tahir.
Dr David Ho, Taiwan
Infectious disease expert
Dr David Ho hopes to find a scientific solution to Covid-19. In 1996, the world-famous HIV researcher became the first doctor chosen specifically for his work on a disease as Time’s Person of the Year, so it raised hopes to see him appear this March on the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek, this time with the headline “The Cure Starts Here”.
Since February, Ho, who is the founder of the Aaron Diamond Aids Research Center and a professor at the Columbia University School of Medicine in the US, has been in charge of a research and development project on coronavirus medicine and antibodies.
Beyond his past contributions as the main inventor of the Aids cocktail combination therapy, Ho has spent nearly two decades conducting in-depth research on coronavirus prevention, studying diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome and now Covid-19.
Audrey Tang, Taiwan
Software programmer and executive cabinet member
Audrey Tang, the youngest and first transgender executive cabinet minister in Taiwan’s history, has been called “Taiwan’s genius IT minister” for having applied her technology expertise to its disease prevention efforts.
Tang united civil and governmental agencies to create a “mask map” app, which helped residents efficiently find the closest location where masks were available in real time. After the events of the Diamond Princess cruise, she also developed an alert system to inform citizens where passengers had visited in order to evaluate whether they needed to monitor their health, and to issue timely rebuttals to the spread of any misinformation or false rumours.
Those efforts were followed by a rationing plan that enables people to order masks online and pick them up at convenience stores. The ease of purchasing masks in Taiwan has been credited with helping alleviate social tensions during the pandemic and giving the government support for its prevention measures. To such praise, Tang replies that her job is simply “aggregating the contribution of the society”, pointing to Taiwan’s Ministry of Health and Welfare, Centres for Disease Control while also paying tribute to pharmacists and medical professionals.
Chen Shih-chung, Taiwan
Taiwan Minister of Health and Welfare
Chen Shih-chung has served as the commander of the Central Epidemic Command Centre. His explanations of efforts to stem the spread of the coronavirus and his humane style seen during daily press conferences have boosted his popularity at home, particularly after he broke down in tears when relaying that one member of a group of Taiwanese businessman who had been stranded in Wuhan tested positive upon his return.
James Dyson, Singapore
When British billionaire James Dyson relocated his global headquarters to Singapore last year, he made headlines for buying the most expensive penthouse in the country for S$73.8 million. Now, the inventor, who is best known for creating the Dyson brand’s cordless vacuum cleaners and heat-controlled hair dryers, has thrust Singapore back in the international spotlight—this time for making a much-needed contribution to humanity’s fight against the global coronavirus pandemic.
It began when British prime minister Boris Johnson phoned Dyson in March just as the Covid-19 crisis was unfolding in the UK. Dyson immediately sprang into action to build a new model of ventilator. As the coronavirus attacks the patient’s respiratory system, large numbers of this life-saving equipment are urgently needed around the world to assist patients who encounter complications that result in breathing difficulties.
Martin Tan, Singapore
Executive director, The Majurity Trust
Tan launched the Singapore Strong Fund to encourage people to start their own initiatives. Individuals, groups or charities can propose ideas to help others, and approved applicants will receive up to 80 per cent of their project cost with a cap of S$5,000. “We realised early on that our ability to overcome Covid-19 isn’t the job of the government or the charity sector alone, but that of every segment of society,” Tan says. Among the 50 projects already approved are the creation of a site called ilostmygig.sg for freelancers, initiated by Nicholas Chee, founder of Sinema Media; and various grassroots efforts to pack and distribute care packages to healthcare workers, cleaners and other heroes.
Han Li Guang, Singapore
Chef and owner of Labyrinth in Singapore
Han Li Guang stepped up with a charity initiative to send free meals to the staff of the National Centre for Infectious Diseases. Since early March, he has funded the initiative by contributing S$20 per dinner customer and S$40 for every full bottle of wine sold at his restaurant. He has also recruited the owners of F&B outlets Keng Eng Kee Seafood, Jam at Siri House, Sanity Coffee and Pezzo Group into this drive. “Working in the F&B industry has provided us with so much joy,” he says. “I hope that in our own small way, we can contribute meaningfully to the people that work hard on the front lines.”
Tan Min-liang, Singapore
CEO and co-founder, Razer, US and Singapore
When Tan Min-Liang announced that Razer would donate one million surgical masks, the lifestyle brand for gamers reconfigured its factory lines in China from making keyboards to masks. “The team at Razer understands that all of us have a part to play in fighting the virus—no matter which industry we come from,” Tan tweeted. In April, he also announced that Razer would set up a fully automated mask production and packing line in Singapore to fill orders by Frasers Property, JustCo and PBA Group worth US$50,000 each. Shipments started going out to health authorities around the world in April, beginning with Singapore.
Dr Zhang Wenhong, China
In the face of widespread uncertainty about the real dangers of the disease, doctors shoulder a major responsibility in addition to fighting the virus itself. That is to spread scientific knowledge by establishing correct guidance and instructions for how citizens should respond to Covid-19.
It’s no small matter to become a role model for ordinary people during such a major crisis, but Dr Zhang Wenhong, the head of the Center of Infectious Diseases, Huashan Hospital of Fudan University, achieved that by explaining the pandemic in a casual and clear way, earning him the nickname “Dad Zhang” on social media.
The Shanghai-based doctor first drew national attention when he ordered doctors to the front lines in non-negotiable terms: “All frontline positions should be replaced by Communist Party members, no bargaining, me too,” he said.
Netizens scrambled to spread various quotes of his: “You’re bored?” he asked. “Then you’re boring the virus to death!”
When referring to the war between ordinary people and the virus, he proposed “fighting by staying at home and suffocating the virus”. When it came to the contribution of entrepreneurs, he said, “paying employees as usual is a major contribution to the society”.
Referring to plans to go back to normal daily routine, he reminded everyone to “guard against the fire, the thief and the colleagues”. And people gradually started to comply.
There’s an ancient saying: “Doctors heal people, and wise men heal the heart”. Zhang has brought that same sense of security to the public. Whether through his WeChat account, his articles about the pandemic or his speeches on live-stream sites, his authority, straightforwardness and rationality have answered a lot of questions from people who are confused and nervous.
By avoiding rigid preaching, Zhang gave people a better understanding of the medical science involved, though he doesn’t care much about his unexpected popularity.
“As a professional, it is my responsibility to tell people the truth, because only public knowledge of Covid-19 could help prevent and control the situation,” he said. “When it is all over, I will no longer have anything to share with you. Everything will eventually return to normal. This is also the life we all aspire to now.”
Jack Ma, China
Jack Ma, the former executive chairman of Alibaba, once said, “When you are a millionaire, the money is yours; and when you have tens and tens of billions, the money is not yours any more, but a social responsibility. And it means more contributions.”
In the chaotic days following the government’s decision to lock down the city of Wuhan, Alibaba announced an RMB1 billion fund for purchasing medical supplies and equipment to donate to medical institutions in Wuhan and Hubei province. The Jack Ma Foundation simultaneously gave RMB100 million to support the development of a Covid-19 vaccine.
Alibaba also set up a special team of workers from 18 Hema Grocery Stores in Wuhan to provide daily meals for key hospitals in the city and food supplies to 21 medical units. Hema also took the lead to provide more jobs in the region during the crisis.
Meanwhile, Ma’s gifts of equipment, testing kits and masks to hard-hit countries, including the US, Iran, Italy and 54 countries in Africa, have stood out all the more distinctively against a backdrop of xenophobia and imperilled international diplomacy. Ma also helped distribute guidebooks for treatment and care protocols to healthcare providers internationally.
Hans Sy, Philippines
Director, Philippine conglomerate SM Group
The Sy family’s business empire SM Group is one of the first major companies in the Philippines to give support, allocating PHP100 million to assist government-owned hospitals. SM Group has equipped health workers with gowns, masks, gloves, visors and hospital shoe covers. It has also waived retail rents to the tenants of its SM Supermalls during the nationwide lockdown. SM Foundation has donated more than PHP170 million to help ensure that frontline workers are provided with additional supplies. It has also orchestrated delivery of more than 6,700 relief packs to depressed communities nationwide.
Abba Napa, Philippines
Co-founder, The Moment Group, Philippines
The Moment Group, founded by Napa with Eliza Antonino and Jon Syjuco, has made its mark on the restaurant industry by way of unique homegrown concepts. The company is actively responding to requests for food aid on several fronts, including the preparation and delivery of more than 1,500 meals to hospitals and clinics on a daily basis. Moment has expanded its efforts to include donations to patients and construction workers building emergency quarantine facilities.
Senator Manny Pacquiao
Senator Manny Pacquiao’s story began when he was a stowaway on a boat bound for Manila with nothing but dreams of becoming a boxer to lift his family out of poverty. Now at the pinnacle of his career, Pacquiao remains committed to helping those in need through his foundation with continuous donations to charitable organisations.
The boxing champ and senator, who was elected in 2016, was quick to send aid, having loaned five buses for the use of frontliners to the Metro Manila Development Authority and pooled money to donate 700,000 face masks.
Through his foundation, Pacquiao joined forces with Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma, who pledged to bring in PHP400 million worth of test kits. The 57,000 kits were turned over to the Department of Health on March 27, and were received by San Lazaro Hospital infectious disease head scientist Dr Rongente Solante and representatives from the Philippine General Hospital.
Ma also donated an additional 500,000 face masks. “Not only is Ma a true friend, but he is also a kind and compassionate person who never fails to help people in times of need,” says Pacquiao. “We had to work on special provisions for the shipments to clear local customs, but given the necessity, we were given immediate government clearance.”
Pacquiao promises these resources will be prioritised for the poor. Says the senator, “Because of my humble beginnings, I know what it’s like to be poor. And to be poor during such a crisis is a serious matter that needs to be immediately addressed by the government.”
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