Singapore Inches Toward Reopening Divided By Vaccine Status
(Bloomberg) -- Singapore plans to further relax restrictions with bigger group sizes allowed at restaurants from next week, while it works towards a larger reopening once at least half of the population is fully vaccinated.
From July 12, dine-in at food outlets will be increased to up to five people, from two people currently, in line with the current rules on gathering limits. Wedding receptions as well as limited social gatherings at workplace may also resume, the statement said.
Once at least 50% of Singapore residents are fully vaccinated, expected around the end of the month, the government is looking to relax rules around dining, office work and events even more, especially for those who’ve been fully vaccinated.
“Through our combined efforts we have been able to bring the infection under control and importantly we have made very good progress in our vaccination program,” Finance Minister Lawrence Wong told reporters. “So we can now proceed with the next stage of our reopening.”
“As our vaccination coverage continues to increase, we will look at differentiated safe management measures for vaccinated persons,” said Wong, who’s also co-chair of the country’s virus taskforce.
Singapore’s moves come as local cases in the city-state have fallen to single digits after curbs over the last two months to control an outbreak of infections. A road map laying out how people can learn to live with Covid-19 is being prepared, which may include details such as how the long-awaited return of leisure travel can proceed.
So far, Singapore has maintained a conservative stance as officials worry that any premature relaxation could lead to another infection wave.
Authorities have said they are looking at milestones pegged to vaccination progress for further resumption of activities. This will likely come 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.
Fully-vaccinated people in the country may be able to go to a restaurant in larger groups, with the government looking to increase this to eight people by the 50% vaccination milestone, the health ministry said. Weddings, sports and church events could have double the capacity, or up to 500 people, if everyone in attendance has finished their shots.
The increase to group sizes of eight would be a return to conditions seen earlier this year when the country moved into its supposed final phase of virus curbs, before a resurgence of cases driven by variants forced more tightening.
Meanwhile, though work-from-home continues to remain the default, more may be allowed to return to offices based on the percentage of total employees who are fully vaccinated.
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“Once we reach a higher level of vaccine coverage we will have stronger herd protection, which means this vaccine effectiveness may be less of a factor,” Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, the other co-chair, said at a briefing. “In time, we should be able to also be more inclusive in allowing vaccinated people or some partially vaccinated, or unvaccinated, people to participate in bigger events.”
Singapore has seen an acceleration in vaccinations in recent weeks, driven by increased access and supply.
On Wednesday, authorities said everyone who is eligible for a shot in Singapore has been offered one. Officials are urging people who have been waiting six to eight weeks for their second shot to move up their appointments.
More than 3.7 million people have received at least their first dose, and by the end of the day two-thirds of the population are expected to have received their first vaccine dose, Ong said. About 39% of the population have received both doses.
A recently-concluded study of 1000 household contacts of Covid-19 cases found that the effectiveness of messenger RNA vaccines against the Delta variant is about 69%, regardless of symptoms, which is consistent with other international observations, Ong said.
Singapore has now delivered more first doses than New York or London, per capita, and its overall vaccination rate is about double that of Hong Kong’s. Even still, restrictions in the city-state are far more stringent than those in western financial capitals.
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