S'pore to maintain current Covid-19 measures, will rely on vaccination and testing to move ahead

SINGAPORE – Singapore will stay in the current preparatory stage of its reopening, and will continue to rely on vaccination and testing to keep the Covid-19 situation under control, amid a recent spike in infections.

In an update on the Covid-19 situation on Friday (Sept 3), Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said there are no plans to loosen or tighten curbs at this stage as the country transitions to living with the disease.

The multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19, which Mr Wong co-chairs, will tighten measures only as a “last resort”, to keep the healthcare system from being overwhelmed.

It will also not loosen measures at this juncture, taking into account the time lag between the onset of infections and serious illness, said Mr Wong at a virtual press conference alongside his co-chairmen, Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong and Health Minister Ong Ye Kung.

Singapore reported 216 new cases of community infections on Friday, with 109 unlinked ones.

Mr Wong said the recent increase in the number of cases is not unexpected, since more people have been going out following the loosening of restrictions earlier.

But Singapore is also in a new phase, with a high level of vaccine coverage, he added.

As the Government continues to monitor the situation, it will also expand the nation’s vaccination and testing regime.

In view of the more transmissible Delta variant, the Ministry of Health (MOH) will start administering booster Covid-19 shots to two groups of people – those who are moderately to severely immunocompromised, as well as those aged 60 and above, and residents of aged care facilities.

As the first batch of seniors aged 60 and above completed their second doses around March, they will be eligible for the third dose within this month (September). More details on the implementation of the booster shot will be announced later, MOH said.

Mr Ong said about 85 per cent of the population would have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by this month.

Added Mr Wong: “We have already reached very high levels of vaccination – we are one of the foremost countries in terms of vaccination – we should now aspire to be a nation of testing, where testing becomes a way of life.”

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On the testing front, the 20 quick test centres already set up for workers to meet testing requirements will open up to the public from Oct 1, so that they can make an appointment for a self-paid test.

This will supplement regular self-testing, and will enable people to use such tests to fulfil employment requirements, or for an unvaccinated person to attend a mass event.

Mr Wong said the Government is looking into setting up more of such testing sites across the island, so that it will be easier for people to get themselves tested regularly.

He added that the Government has already mandated rostered routine testing for people in high-risk settings.

“But regular testing should not be confined to those working in such settings,” he said. “We want to strongly encourage everyone, whether you’re vaccinated or not, to self-test regularly as a matter of social responsibility.”

That is why the Government decided to distribute antigen test kits to every household, Mr Wong added.

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Mr Ong said personal responsibility and community resilience are “alternate lines of defence” to keeping the situation under control, now that the Government is refraining from tightening measures.

“I think most of us, all of us, don’t want to turn back,” said Mr Ong. “Then we must be able to fall back on alternate lines of defence.”

This includes getting vaccinated, observing safe management measures, wearing masks properly, and not spreading misinformation, among others.

Mr Ong added: “This next phase of the journey depends critically on everyone’s civic consciousness and social responsibility. So let’s take care of ourselves and the people around us.”

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