Masks will no longer be required in Singapore but... ?
Masks will no longer be required in most indoor situations from Monday (29 August 2022), as Singapore takes an important step in coping with Covid-19.
On Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong stated that masks will only be required in two places: healthcare institutions, residential care homes, and ambulances, as well as indoor premises within hospitals and polyclinics.
They will also be needed on public transportation, including the MRT, LRT, public buses, and indoor facilities such as bus interchanges and MRT stations. Masks will be optional in the airport and on private forms of transportation such as school buses, private bus services, and taxis.
According to the Ministry of Health, the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions comes as the population has become more robust to the virus as a result of high vaccination rates and more individuals becoming sick.
The number of Covid-19 infections has also progressively reduced, while the number of daily hospital cases has been cut in half, from more than 800 in July to less than 400 now.
Mr Wong, on the other hand, emphasized that, while the pandemic situation is much better today, Singaporeans must be mentally prepared for any abrupt change, since the next Covid-19 version might be more aggressive and deadly.
The multi-ministerial task committee, co-chaired by Mr Wong, Mr Ong, and Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong, stated that vaccination remained the first line of defense.
According to Mr Ong, the government plans to provide boosters to children aged five to eleven in the fourth quarter of this year, and is contemplating vaccinations for newborns and younger children.
He added that about 80% of the populace had had their booster doses, which was a major reason Singapore was able to ride out the BA.5 variant wave without increasing safe management procedures or overburdening hospitals.
"Vaccinations remain the greatest approach to protect ourselves from serious Covid-19 sickness. However, we are assessing our vaccination strategy in order to transition to a system in which we maintain our immunizations up to date "Mr Wong stated.
With the Expert Committee on Covid-19 Vaccination suggesting a first booster for children aged five to eleven years, the government will provide vaccinations to this age group in the fourth quarter of the year, when examinations are wrapping up or are completed.
Immunization boosters will be administered at five designated vaccination centers around the island.
Mr Ong noted that a decision on recommended immunizations for children aged six months to five years is due soon. If authorized, it will take place at the same time as the booster exercise for children aged five to eleven.
Mr Ong stated that the government is providing very early notice of plans for these two groups because parents are concerned about their children's safety.
The expert group also suggested a second booster for adults aged 60 and up. This group was previously simply provided the option of accepting it if they so desired.
Mr Wong stated that the vaccination-differentiated safe management practices had not changed. Currently, vaccination status checks are necessary for big gatherings of more than 500 individuals, as well as for all patrons of food and beverage businesses.
Non-fully vaccinated travelers entering Singapore will no longer be subject to a seven-day stay home notice (SHN) upon arrival from Monday.
These passengers will not be required to conduct a polymerase chain reaction test upon departing SHN. They will still require a negative pre-departure test within two days before leaving for Singapore.
Non-fully vaccinated long-term pass holders and short-term tourists aged 13 and up will no longer be required to apply for entry authorisation to enter Singapore from Monday.
Mr Wong also stated that the multi-ministerial task team will not be disbanded since the pandemic scenario might change abruptly.
He noted that the task force is still constantly monitoring the situation and has measures in place for various situations such as increasing healthcare capacity and ramping up vaccination activities as needed.
"I hope we don't have to use these steps again," he added of safe management techniques. "However, we know from previous experience that this is a tough virus, and we must prepare for the unexpected. So let us all be prepared and retain our solidarity, trust, and togetherness as we work together to overcome this pandemic."