Singapore Maintains Current Virus Rules, to Start Boosters
(Bloomberg) -- Singapore will maintain current virus curbs despite a recent rise in cases, and plans to start vaccine booster shots soon for vulnerable groups as highly-contagious variants remain a concern.
With one of the world’s best vaccination rates, Singapore said it will boost testing and allow infected people with mild symptoms to recover at home. The government is also targeting to start booster shots for those above 60 years and people who are immuno-compromised this month.
The country is moving into a phase of “living with Covid” and there is no need to impose more restrictions, Finance Minister and co-chair of the virus taskforce Lawrence Wong said at a Friday briefing.
“We would only revert to such a tightened posture as a last resort to prevent our hospital system from being overwhelmed,” he said. “At the same time, we do not intend to make any new opening moves at this juncture, because there is a time lag between the onset of infections to serious illness, and so we want to take some time to monitor the situation.”
The current measures will remain “for a while more” to allow authorities to monitor the situation, Trade Minister Gan Kim Yong said at the same briefing. Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said about 85% of the population is expected to be inoculated within a month.
Singapore is finalizing plans to ease Covid-19 restrictions on migrant workers’ movements, the Straits Times reported this week, citing Manpower Minister Tan See Leng. The country has also started issuing so-called Vaccinated Travel Passes to travelers from Germany and Brunei, a program that doesn’t place restrictions on the purpose of trips or requirements for a controlled itinerary or sponsor.
Singapore’s resolve has been tested in recent weeks with Friday’s cases rising above 200, marking the highest number of infections in the broader community since the start of the pandemic. The ministers had earlier anticipated a rise in cases following a gradual loosening of strict containment curbs as part of reopening strategy geared toward treating the virus as endemic, though they pointed out on Friday that serious cases remain stable.
Officials have reiterated that any return to tougher measures would be done to reduce the strain in hospitals, which have allocated 1,000 beds in intensive care units. Currently there are 528 cases warded in hospitals with most under observation, while five are in critical condition and 27 require oxygen supplementation, government data showed.
Here are measures authorities are looking at to keep the virus situation under control:
- Encouraging people to self-test regularly with antigen rapid kits as a “matter of social responsibility” if they attend large scale event or take part in high risk activities.
- Asking employers to promote antigen rapid tests in the work place and make this part of business continuity plans.
- Setting up 20 quick test centers to fulfill employment requirements or to allow unvaccinated people to attend a mass event.
Authorities said Friday they will start booster shots for selected groups this month, given emerging data on the waning vaccine efficacy against Covid with time. The government this week said it can send half a million Pfizer-BioNTech shots to Australia this week in return for receiving the same number in December.
Those above 60 who are among the first to be offered vaccines, and many completed their second shot around March, will be eligible for their third dose this month. For the immuno-compromised, they are recommended to get a third dose two months after their second shot, officials said.
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