The easing of measures is dependent on the COVID-19 clusters.
Singapore could see a further easing of COVID-19 rules from Jul 12, according to Minister of Health Ong Ye Kung.
Mr Ong made the remarks in an interview with The Straits Times on Thurs (Jul 1). He added in the interview that Singapore could transition into the new normal by the end of August or September, while leisure travel could be a possibility by the end of the year.
Singapore is currently in Phase 3 (Heightened Alert). Dining-in is allowed for groups of up to two, although people can gather in groups of up to five.
Here are the things you need to know about Minister Ong’s remarks:
Previously, the co-chair of the Multi-Ministry Task Force for COVID-19 (MTF) Lawrence Wong said that Singapore could increase the limit of people per group for dining-in by mid-July.
Mr Ong has revealed that the authorities are looking at Jul 12 to do so. He added that there could be more easing of restrictions for activities other than dining-in too.
“Come Jul 12, we are looking at opening up to (allow) more people dining together, and whether there are other openings that we can consider,” Mr Ong said.
Mr Ong added that the likelihood of measures being eased is more dependent on the situation regarding the COVID-19 clusters than on the vaccination rates.
Currently, there are 29 active clusters. The cluster at Bukit Merah View Market and Food Centre is the biggest, with 93 cases.
Mr Ong added that more easing of measures could happen in the second half of July, when half of the population are fully vaccinated, and on National Day, when two-thirds of the country are fully vaccinated.
“Hopefully we can mark (the milestone) with the National Day Parade as another step of opening, before we progress to the endemic COVID-19 stage. You want the transition to be a… step-by-step one, where you progressively move towards it, as opposed to a sudden change,” said Mr Ong.
In addition, Mr Ong also mentioned that leisure travel to countries with high vaccination rates and low infection rates may resume by the end of the year.
Possible countries include the United States and those in the European Union.
“Once a place’s (COVID-19) infection rate is going down, vaccinations are going up and you go below, say, two, or three infections per 100,000 (people), we should start monitoring those countries seriously,” Mr Ong said.
Previously, Singapore had announced an air travel bubble (ATB) with Hong Kong, although that was postponed twice because of a spike in cases in Hong Kong and then Singapore. The ATB is up for review in July.
Singapore and Australia also said in early June that they were working on an ATB between both countries, but no details have been released yet.
Singapore will progressively re-open to the new normal by the end of August or September, said Mr Ong.
The task force ministers announced in a press conference on Jun 24 that COVID-19 will very likely become endemic and Singapore will manage it like other endemic diseases, such as influenza.
Vaccination remains the key to help Singapore transition to the new normal.
“We are in this transition phase while we vaccinate more of our population… It may take a month or two before we arrive at a percentage that we are more comfortable with, that gives us confidence to open up more. In the meantime, testing remains very important,” said Mr Ong.
The other key considerations in transitioning to the endemic had been made based on science.
However, mask-wearing requirements will be among the last measures that will be reviewed, Mr Ong said.
He noted that Israel had recently reintroduced a requirement to wear masks indoors after a spike in COVID-19 cases in the country, just days after lifting its mask-wearing measures.
He also conceded that even if mask-wearing requirements are removed eventually, it will be for only safer outdoor environments, such as parks.
“Masks, to me, are a very important non-pharmaceutical intervention, and may well be one of the last things we want to consider removing,” he said.
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