From a faster vaccination programme to more testing, here are ways Singapore plans to move towards the ‘new normal’.
On Monday (May 31), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong updated the nation about Singapore’s plans to keep COVID-19 under control in the new normal.
During his speech, he touched on the developing COVID-19 situation in Singapore, as well as how the country plans to progressively open up.
Here are five things you should know about Singapore’s new plans for COVID-19.
He said: “We should be on track to bring this outbreak under control. We will know for sure in another week or so.”
With the cooperation of others, Singapore should be able to relax its restrictions by Jun 13, so there is no need to impose another circuit breaker.
Instead, Singapore will fight new and more infectious variants by adjusting its strategies.
With vaccinations for people aged 40 to 44 already underway, Singapore is prioritising “first dose vaccination” to protect as many Singaporeans as possible.
Singapore has struck up agreements with its vaccine suppliers for vaccines to be delivered faster over the next two months. As such, Singapore will be able to offer vaccines to everyone sooner than expected.
With more cases of students getting infected in schools, students above 12 years old will be vaccinated first during the upcoming June holidays. Bookings for vaccinations will open tomorrow, with priority given to graduating students and students with special needs.
The final group to be vaccinated, young adults aged 39 and younger, will get vaccinated by around mid-June. As the group is “quite large”, Singaporeans will get a two-week priority window to book their appointments.
Finally, any seniors above the age of 60 can walk into any vaccination centre and get vaccinated on the spot without registering or booking in advance. If they are unable to walk to a centre, they can contact the Silver Generation Office, and a doctor and nurse will visit their home to vaccinate them.
With Singapore’s accelerated vaccination programme, everyone who wants the vaccination and is eligible for it should be able to get their first dose by National Day (Aug 9).
PM Lee said: “Whether you are old or young, please come forward to be vaccinated once it is your turn. With the more infectious virus strains, we need as many people as possible to be vaccinated in order to reach herd immunity or get close to it.
“This is the way to make everyone safe and resume more normal activities.”
As testing can help detect COVID-19 cases faster, Singapore is working on conducting COVID-19 tests more liberally and extensively.
Singaporeans will soon be able to purchase DIY COVID-19 tests over the counter at pharmacies.
Easy to use, the tests are useful for those who are worried that they have COVID-19 and want to put themselves at ease. Frontline workers who need to test themselves frequently may use it as well.
ARTs are much faster, cheaper and easier to administer than PCRs, but they are also less sensitive. As such, ARTs will be used for patients with acute respiratory infections when they visit GPs or polyclinics. If their result is positive, they will be isolated immediately after taking a PCR test.
Breathalyser tests have also been set up at the Causeway and the Airport. If needed, they can be deployed to other places.
Rostered routine testing will be conducted at high-risk settings including dormitories, hospitals and nursing homes.
“Extensive testing will give us confidence to resume larger-scale events or gatherings, and participants can be assured that the event is COVID-19 safe.
“Therefore, you should expect routine, large-scale, fast and simple testing to be a part of our new normal,” PM Lee said.
Contact tracing in Singapore will be further improved by “casting the net wider”.
When a close contact of an infected person is identified, both he and his family members will be isolated immediately.
“If later the first-degree contact tests negative, we can safely release his household members from isolation. But if the first-degree contact tests positive, we will have saved precious time by isolating his household members earlier,” PM Lee said.
With this more aggressive approach towards contact tracing, Singapore will be able to shut down clusters more quickly.
While PM Lee said that he expected the global pandemic to subside eventually, he does not expect COVID-19 to disappear. Instead, it will remain with humankind and become endemic, just like the flu or dengue.
We will continue to see small outbreaks from time to time in Singapore, but we should continue to keep the community safe and “learn to carry on with the virus”.
PM Lee said: “But as long as our population is mostly vaccinated, we should be able to trace, isolate and treat the cases that pop up, and prevent a severe and disastrous outbreak.”
Living with endemic COVID-19, Singapore’s priority is to get through the pandemic and position itself strongly for the future – thus it will not completely close its borders.
In the new normal, Singaporeans will most likely be vaccinated and taking booster shots yearly. Visitors will come to Singapore, and likewise, Singaporeans will also get to travel again.
PM Lee said: “Right now, we are some ways off from this happy state. But we are heading in the right direction.
In this new normal, Singapore will be more confident and resilient than before, and toughened by what we have overcome together as one nation.”
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