Instead of the tens of thousands of spectators of past years, this year's National Day Parade (NDP) will have just around 150 spectators who are "representatives of society", Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said on Sunday (July 26).
NDP2020 will be broken into two segments, with a morning parade and ceremony held at the Padang, the site of Singapore's first NDP in 1966, and an evening show at the Star Performing Arts Centre.
There will be around 50 representatives of the Government, including ministers, watching the morning parade and around 100 members of the public as spectators.
Those watching the parade will be seated in three sections of around 50 people each, to prevent intermingling.
Participant numbers have also been dropped to about 300 this year for both events combined. This is down from the usual 5,000 to 6,000 people.
"There's a careful balance to be struck. Obviously, you can't have for this year's NDP, which usually has a show, parade and ceremony components combined, and participants numbered in the thousands and the spectators numbered in the tens of thousands," said Dr Ng.
Those dancing and singing will do so without masks on but Dr Ng said all have been exercising "strict discipline in terms of cohorting" with extra precautions in place.
Performers will take two swab tests, with one done just before the show, to ensure they are free from Covid-19.
During practice, when they are not wearing masks, they have to keep 1-2m away from one another.
"So far, so good. They've kept themselves free from infection but we're always monitoring," said Dr Ng.
Singapore has not missed hosting the NDP to celebrate its independence. The first was held in 1966.
Even a severe downpour in 1968 did not deter the more than 1,000 participants in 81 contingents at the Padang, with founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew waving off the offer of an umbrella.
In 2003, amid the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak, which claimed 33 lives in Singapore, the NDP was held at the National Stadium with the crowd paying tribute to healthcare workers.
Dr Ng had previously said that Singaporeans should celebrate National Day this year despite the challenges, saying that Singapore's founding generations held the NDP to signify the collective confidence in the future.
In speaking to the media, he also commented on the new Cabinet line-up announced on Saturday.
Dr Ng, who retained the Defence Minister portfolio, said he sees his appointment as continuity to bring Singapore through the current crisis.
"This is, for Singapore, an existential threat that is life and death, not just for individuals but for our nation.
"So we will take it as a continuity and we want to build a strong defence to protect our future," he said.
He was elected into Parliament in 2001 and was the Second Minister for Defence from 2005 before his appointment as Defence Minister in 2011.
"Whether I serve and where I serve depends on the Prime Minister. We serve under his direction. It's an honour to be appointed to his Cabinet," he said.
"I'm familiar with the challenges and I thank the Prime Minister and other Cabinet colleagues for the confidence.
"We must do the best we can, whether it's the ministers, the officials or the rank-and-file soldiers," added Dr Ng.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.