Singapore Eyes Mid-July Easing, Leisure Travel By Year-End

Singapore is slated to announce a further easing of Covid-19 restrictions in mid-July as part of a strategy for reopening the economy that may also include the long-awaited return of leisure travel by the end of the year, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung told the Straits Times.

With virus clusters in the community coming under control, Ong told the newspaper that the government was looking at raising the number of people allowed to dine together in restaurants from two come July 12, while exploring “other openings” as well.

Afterward, the city-state will look to other milestones pegged to vaccination progress for further reopening: the first likely in the second half of July, when more than 50% of the population is fully vaccinated. And then, when Singapore hits the two-thirds mark around its National Day on Aug. 9.

Beyond that, “if young kids start to be able to get vaccinated, that will allow us to go even further,” Ong said in the interview, adding that Singapore could transit to what he called a new normal by September.

While Singapore has largely managed to stamp out infection -- confirming just four new community cases on Thursday -- it has so far maintained a conservative posture toward reopening as officials worry that any significant relaxation may compromise their hard-won success against the virus.

Down the road, possible destinations for quarantine-free leisure travel would be countries with high vaccination rates that are experiencing downward trends in infection rates, Ong was quoted as saying.

“Those must be the places that we look at first purely from a scientific public health point of view,” he said, citing most of Europe and the U.S. as examples of where the situation is improving. Once a country goes below three cases per 100,000 people, “we should start looking at those countries seriously.”

Ong told the Straits Times that masks will be the last of the measures to be reviewed. If mask requirements were removed, it would “perhaps be just for safer outdoor environments such as parks.”

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