Singapore Needs More Data Before Deciding on Covid Easing: Trade Minister
(Bloomberg) -- Singapore officials still need “a few more days” before they can decide whether to relax strict virus curbs that have lasted for nearly two months, Singapore’s trade minister said Friday in a virtual interview on the sidelines of the Bloomberg New Economy Forum.
Asked about the likelihood of restrictions continuing past Nov. 21, when they are due to lapse, Singapore Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong replied that “It’s really difficult to say, because it is still too early.” Gan is also a co-chair of the government task force overseeing virus measures in the city-state.
The latest round of Covid curbs were imposed on Sept. 27 amid the city-state’s worst virus surge yet, which includes making work from home the default, and capping social gatherings at two. The limits were then extended by a month in October.
Cases have stabilized and started to decline in recent weeks, as Singapore’s latest outbreak shows signs of slowing. Thursday was the third time in the last week that cases in the community dipped below 2,000, down from a high of 4,650 on Oct. 27. The government has focused on its week over week ratio of community Covid cases as a key metric for easing. It wants to see the number below 1 -- a target that has been hit on 15 of the last 16 days.
Pressure on hospitals has also eased. More than 40% of public ICU beds in the city-state are now vacant, due to a combination of lower Covid cases over the last few weeks, as well as a ramping up of capacity.
The government began incrementally easing restrictions from last week, such as allowing five people from the same residence to dine at restaurants, and announcing some pilot programs where social distancing measures could be reduced.
“We are hoping that we’ll be able to make some review and see whether there will be opportunity for us to make some adjustments,” Gan told Bloomberg TV’s Haslinda Amin. He added that officials will still need “a few more days” to monitor the effects of the latest relaxation of rules, and make a quick assessment before Monday.
Singapore is pushing for an endemic strategy of living with the virus, although that approach has been marred by several months of stop-start restrictions. The business hub’s prime minister Lee Hsien Loong defended the slow pace of reopening Wednesday, saying that the government was seeking to avoid “unsettling u-turns.”
The New Economy Forum is being organized by Bloomberg Media Group, a division of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.
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