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Singapore Eases Safety Measures On Coronavirus But Minister Warns Of New Variant Risk

Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong said at the press conference of the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19 that there is also a risk of new variants emerging, which may require a reassessment of whether additional boosters are needed.

Singapore Eases Safety Measures On Coronavirus But Minister Warns Of New Variant Risk
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Vaccinated migrant workers in Singapore dormitories, listed among the main clusters during the peak of coronavirus spread, will be allowed to visit communities from next week, the Ministry of Health (MoH) said on Friday. Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong said at the press conference of the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19 that there is also a risk of new variants emerging, which may require a reassessment of whether additional boosters are needed. "We will need to continue to monitor the situation and watch how the epidemic evolves," said Gan, who co-chairs the task force.


Meanwhile, the Expert Committee on COVID-19 vaccination is studying whether children require booster shots, and whether other age groups require more than one booster shot. Singapore's director of medical services Kenneth Mak told a press conference on Friday that the data on these areas are still "very nascent". "We're watching the experiences of other countries," he said. "We're looking at our own local studies on how good the protection from the existing boosters is, whether or not that will wane, and whether that will translate eventually to increased risk of reinfections and infections arising." As for migrant workers, including those from India, up to 15,000 will be allowed to visit the community on weekdays, and up to 30,000 on weekends and public holidays, for up to eight hours per visit, The Straits Times newspaper reported. This is an increase from the current quotas of 3,000 on weekdays, and 6,000 on weekends and public holidays. There will no longer be differentiated Covid-19 safety measures for migrant workers as the same rules that apply to the wider community will soon apply to such workers too. The move is to streamline these safety measures from next Tuesday.


The ministry noted that the number of cases from these dorms has stayed low over the past few weeks. Vaccination coverage and booster take-up among migrant workers have also been very strong. "The migrant worker population has therefore become very resilient to Covid-19 infections. Hence, there are good reasons to take a significant step to allow more of our vaccinated migrant workers to visit the community safely, and to safeguard their well-being," the ministry said. More than 98 per cent of migrant workers living in dormitories have been fully vaccinated. Overall, Singapore will simplify its safe management measures from next Tuesday, as the Omicron wave has likely peaked and COVID-19 cases are falling. The streamlining, which was earlier announced but deferred due to a surge in cases, will cover five areas: group sizes, mask wearing, workplace rules, safe distancing and capacity limits. Should the pandemic situation change, these parameters will be tightened or relaxed across the board. Other restrictions, such as the blocking-off of public seating areas, will be lifted, given that they do not have a big impact on the virus' spread. Minister Gan stressed that the changes do not represent a broader easing of rules. Rather, they are meant to make the rules easier for businesses and individuals to understand, and encourage a greater sense of personal responsibility, he said. Health Minister Ong Ye Kung noted that the seven-day moving average of local Covid-19 cases had peaked at 18,300 cases on Feb 26, and had come down gradually to 16,300 as at Thursday.


Around 90 per cent of Covid-19 cases in Singapore now are of the BA.2 Omicron subvariant, up from 15 per cent in mid-February. The streamlining of rules means the maximum permitted group size for social gatherings remains at five. Households will also be allowed to host five guests at any one time. A 50 per cent capacity limit will be set for large events and settings with more than 1,000 people, such as attractions, cruises, conventions, performing arts venues and sports stadiums. In addition, people arriving via quarantine-free travel lanes, as well as those from low-risk places need to only self-test, instead of doing supervised antigen rapid tests, within a day of their arrival. The move paves the way for upcoming changes to Singapore’s border measures, where fully vaccinated travellers will generally not need approval to enter Singapore and will undergo simplified test requirements, the MOH said. Gan said the authorities will continue to monitor the Covid-19 situation closely. “And when the situation improves and healthcare capacity permits, we will be able to take the next step in easing our safe management measures,” the broadsheet quoted Gan as saying. Singapore reported 16,165 new COVID-19 cases as of noon on Thursday (Mar 10), including 175 imported infections. There were six fatalities reported on Thursday, taking the death toll from coronavirus complications to 1,116. Singapore has recorded 901,758 COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic.

PTI Inputs

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