How The Gen.T Community Is Helping In The Fight Against Covid-19
We are in the midst of a global health crisis, with significant impact on the world economy. Most countries in the region are under lockdown or, at the very least, practising mandatory social distancing.
Despite the physical distance between us, however, dozens in the Gen.T community are coming together online to provide help to those most in need.
From developing medicine to making masks for frontline medical staff, here’s how the Gen.T community is joining in on the fight against Covid-19.
To support front line healthcare workers, Grab cofounders Anthony Tan and Tan Hooi Ling have launched GrabCare, a dedicated transport service that ferries healthcare professionals to and from hospitals in Singapore.
The service offers riders a fixed fare and round-the-clock service. Within 12 hours of its launch, the new temporary platform saw encouraging support from the driver community, with almost 2,000 Grab drivers volunteering to participate.
As Malaysia enters its second week of lockdown, which began on March 18 and faces a possible two-week extension, Picha Eats has taken things into its own hands. The socially conscious food delivery startup—co-founded by Gen.T honourees Kim Lim, Suzanne Ling and Lee Swee Lin—has extended its food services to front liners, giving out free meals to hospitals, police stations, refugee communities and shelters for the elderly.
The meals also come with a card made by the children of Picha Eats’ chefs, all of whom hail from war-torn countries such as Syria and Afghanistan. By the end of March, Picha Eats aims to have delivered nearly 4,000 meals to front liners and communities in need.
The N1 Institute for Health
On the science front, Singapore honouree Dean Ho is working tirelessly to combat Covid-19 through his AI-driven digital medicine institute, The N1 Institute for Health.
He and his team have established N1.ID (The N.1 Infectious Diseases Programme), which is “a multi-faceted effort to harness AI to combat Covid-19 and prevent issues such as drug shortages and future virus outbreaks”.
N1.ID has multiple facets, with the two key pillars being technology and policy. Under the technology pillar is IDentif.AI, a powerful platform that “simultaneously identifies the best drugs and doses out of billions of possible drug combinations for any virus within days,” says Ho.
“This is particularly important because so many clinical trials with a broad spectrum of drugs are being conducted, and there is a lot of uncertainty regarding how to choose the right treatment. There is no magic bullet for Covid-19, but IDentif.AI can pinpoint the very best strategies with our current arsenal of available drugs to optimise patient outcomes with unprecedented speed.”
But technology alone, says Ho, won't prevent a pandemic. As a result, he and his team have partnered with experts in global health security and surveillance, and healthcare economics, to “address or prevent pandemics at the intersection of technology, strategy and policy. These include innovative healthcare financing approaches, rapid and cheaper drug development, as well as finding ways in which we can deploy these optimised therapies and technologies to the masses for free.”
See also: Dean Ho Is Using AI To Reimagine How We Take Life-Saving Drugs—And The Potential Impact is Huge
99.co and Carousell
Around 300,000 Malaysians travel across the border to Singapore for work or school every day. The Malaysian government's decision to close its borders without notice left many of these travellers stranded and, in some instances, temporarily homeless.
In a statement released by Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on March 20, Malaysians with Singapore work permits can continue to commute to Singapore for work, on the condition that they undergo health screenings and are provided accommodation in Singapore for the duration of the restricted movement order.
In response, Singapore startups 99.co and Carousell launched their own initiatives to help Malaysian workers find shelter.
“It is the most natural thing for us to do,” says Darius Cheung, founder and CEO of 99.co. “This is because our mission has always been about helping everyone find a home. We have a large community of homeowners, some of whom may have a spare room or property to offer, so we thought we could help by connecting them with the distressed workers.” 99.co encourages landlords and businesses who work with them on this to provide complimentary temporary accommodation until March 31.
Similarly, community marketplace platform Carousell—founded by honourees Lucas Ngoo, Marcus Tan and Quek Siu Rui—is doing the same under its #ChooseToGiveShelter campaign, inviting its listed landlords to open up their lodging for free while the border is closed.
See also: This Is The State Of Female Entrepreneurship In 2020
The Biji-biji Initiative
The social enterprise’s co-founder Rashvin Pal Singh and his team are solving the issue of a shortage of facial masks in Malaysian hospitals using 3D printing. The Biji-biji Initiative’s education arm, Me.reka, has partnered with Taylor’s University and the 3D printing community to help meet the demand, which is estimated to be 40,000 face shields, N95 masks and surgical masks per month.
The group will print masks based on open-source design files found on DIY community platform Instructables. It will also connect the 3D printing community with mask manufacturers, suppliers of the required materials, and front line organisations, to ensure a seamless production process.
While some work to fill the stomachs of front line workers, Singapore honouree Hazel Kweh and her team at Bloomback are filling their hearts by establishing the Bloom It Forward movement. With this, Bloomback has created a platform for the public to donate SG$10, which will go towards preserved flower buckets that Bloomback are delivering to healthcare workers.
“I believe the way to cast out fear during this period is to spread love through simple acts of kindness. It has been proven that flowers have health benefits such as reducing stress and improving mood,” says Kweh. “Through this movement, both the giver and recipient will benefit from positive emotions. At the same time, people will help to support small businesses like ours during this trying time.”
See also: Singapore's Youngest Ever Nominated Member Of Parliament On Fighting Sexual Harassment On Campus
Datin Vivy Yusof and Dato’ Fadza Anuar, co-founders of Malaysian fashion and e-commerce company FashionValet, have partnered with the Islamic Medical Association of Malaysia Response and Relief Team (IMARET) to launch a support fund on crowdfunding platform Simply Giving.
The FV Covid19 Support Fund will be used to help mobilise volunteers to assist at healthcare facilities, support front liners and those who have been hospitalised or quarantined, as well as purchase medical and general supplies to hospitals.
To start the ball rolling, the couple personally donated RM100,000 (over US$23,000) to the fund. At the time of writing, the fund has reached 98 percent of its target amount of RM1 million.
Earlier in the crisis, the married co-founders also brought together volunteers to make a donation of air-conditioners, laptops, cash and a food bank to hospitals in Malaysia.
“I was inspired by Dato Seri Syed Zainal, the chairman of UiTM (Universiti Teknologi MARA), who had donated portable air-conditioners to hospitals. So I asked him for hospital contacts as my husband, Fadza, and I wanted to help too. I couldn’t sit around and do nothing. At first, I wanted to do this silently, but then I realised that I should be [publicising] my efforts in the hope of inspiring others to help as well. After all, kindness is infectious.”
Lucy Liu, the co-founder and president of fintech unicorn Airwallex, is doing her part by sharing the important lessons she learned from having to adapt her business overnight to the changes caused by the pandemic.
“As a global company, we have a view of how major issues play out worldwide as well as a network spanning 10 offices globally that we can share these insights with. In this instance, we are better prepared for the current pandemic after having first ridden the wave in China," she says.
"There are many invaluable lessons we learned from the experience that we have taken onboard ourselves, which we are more than willing to share with the wider business community. Our communication channels are open to anyone in a business who is currently facing difficulties—we will provide as much support and direction as possible during these uncertain times.”
In February, Airwallex—which Liu co-founded with fellow honouree Jack Zhang—decided to waive international transaction fees for e-commerce businesses in China importing protective equipment, such as surgical masks. With the virus fast spreading to other parts of the world, the company has also extended this option to small businesses in Australia and the UK.
As part of its #CasetifyProtects initiative, Hong Kong startup Casetify has launched a UV sanitiser that kills 99.9 percent of bacteria on your phone through radiation-free lights. All proceeds from the case will be donated to US-based non-profit GlobalGiving’s Coronavirus Relief Fund, which sends medical responders and supplies to communities in need around the world.
“Our company is in a unique position as we operate from two global offices—one in the US and one in Hong Kong—so while our customers and employees on the West Coast are only now adjusting to the situation, our headquarters in Hong Kong has experienced much of what the world is going through right now,” says Wesley Ng, founder and CEO of Casetify. “Hence, we’ve been able to hit the ground running and lend our support to the communities, in an effort to make an impact as quickly as possible.”
Casetify has also made a commitment to include 10 free sachets of disinfectant wipes with every order made globally.
See also: 6 Ways To Promote Mental Wellness In The Workplace