Singapore Plans Road Map to Reopening, Tied to Vaccinations
(Bloomberg) -- Singapore is planning for a phased reopening and “new normal” under the assumption that Covid-19 can be controlled through mass vaccination but may never fully go away, three key ministers wrote in a column in a local newspaper.
“We are drawing up a road map to transit to this new normal, in tandem with the achievement of our vaccination milestones, though we know the battle against Covid-19 will continue to be fraught with uncertainty,” Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong and Health Minister Ong Ye Kung jointly wrote in The Straits Times on Thursday.
The island nation is trying to manage a cautious reopening, looking to quell potential clusters until more people are vaccinated. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said mass vaccination is key to allowing the trade hub to more fully reopen, including relaxing mask, social distancing and travel rules.
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Singapore aims to fully vaccinate two-thirds of its people by National Day, which falls on Aug. 9, the ministers said. More than half the population has received a first dose of vaccine, and about 36% are fully vaccinated, one of the best vaccination rates in Asia according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The three ministers cited Israel as an example, saying the infection rate among vaccinated persons there is 30 times less than those who haven’t been vaccinated. “Essentially with a high rate of vaccination, Israel has brought the clinical outcomes of Covid-19 close to that of seasonal influenza in the U.S.,” they said.
Israel is among the world’s vaccination leaders, having administered two doses of Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE’s coronavirus vaccine to nearly 57% of its population. Infection rates have plummeted, and hospitals that were previously overrun are now treating only a few dozen Covid patients.
However even Israel hasn’t wiped out the disease. Vaccination rates have slowed in recent months, and the country this week reported more than 100 new coronavirus infections for the first time since April, prompting the government to begin reimposing mask and quarantine rules lifted just weeks ago.
Singapore’s ministers said the new normal for the trade hub could include:
- Allowing infected people to recover at home
- Reducing what the virus taskforce leaders called “massive contact tracing and quarantining of people each time we discover an infection”; instead people could test regularly and self-isolate as needed
- Shift focus away from daily case totals to a focus on how many people are very sick, similar to how the country monitors the flu
- Progressively easing safe management rules, including resuming large gatherings and major events like the National Day Parade; “Businesses will have certainty that their operations will not be disrupted,” they wrote
- Resuming travel to countries that have “controlled the virus and turned it into an endemic norm”; under this scenario, vaccinated travelers who test negative on departure and arrival could be exempted from quarantine
“We can’t eradicate it, but we can turn the pandemic into something much less threatening,” the ministers wrote, citing examples like influenza and chickenpox. In doing that, people in Singapore can “get on with our lives.”
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