Late Breaking News: Singapore has opened its borders to vaccinated travelers, to conferences and exhibits. As of April 22, 2022, no limit on group size, masks not mandatory at workplaces as Singapore eases most Covid-19 rules.
Singapore opens all night life businesses as of April 19, 2022
After a two-year halt due to the pandemic, all nightlife businesses in Singapore will be allowed to fully reopen from April 19, with Covid-19 safety measures in place, the authorities said today.
Stay updated at www.straitstimes.com.
Singapore Eases Travel Restrictions as of April1,2022
BIIA members and industry experts attending the BIIA conference should take note of the greatly eased travel schemes. For details please click here.
All vaccinated travellers can enter Singapore without quarantine from April 1, no need for VTL flights. The new travel scheme, named the Vaccinated Travel Framework, will replace the existing Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme.
Here is a short summary:
Fully vaccinated travellers do not require any entry approvals to enter Singapore; this means that travellers who were required to apply for vaccinated travel passes no longer need to do so. The air travel pass required as part of Singapore’s unilateral opening to Macau, China and Taiwan will no longer be required as well.
– Fully vaccinated travellers will still be required to take a pre-departure test within two days before departing for Singapore and obtain a negative test result. But they will no longer need to take any Covid-19 tests after arrival in Singapore.
Designated flights and quotas
– Fully vaccinated travellers can enter Singapore on any flights without having to serve quarantine from April 1. There will no longer be any quotas applied on daily arrivals.
– Travellers will be able to show all vaccination certificates regardless of place of issuance as proof of vaccination. These certificates are not required to be digitally verifiable. Children aged 12 years and below are exempted from the vaccination requirement, in line with domestic measures.
Singapore Arrival Card
– The existing SG Arrival Card will be simplified such that they can be completed easily. Travellers will just need to submit their personal particulars, vaccination status and health declaration.
The new travel scheme, named the Vaccinated Travel Framework, will replace the existing Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme.
Singapore Vacinated Traval Lanes Information (Up to March 31st, 2022)
Travellers must fulfil the following basic eligibility criteria of the VTL (Air) to enjoy quarantine-free travel, otherwise they may be turned away by airlines/immigration, or be subject to the prevailing health requirements and quarantine. Travellers not eligible for the VTL (Air) should explore other Safe Travel Lanes at the Travelling to Singapore page. Singapore Citizens/Permanent Residents who do not fulfil the VTL eligibility criteria below will be subject to prevailing health measures. All other travellers may be denied entry into Singapore.
- Active VTL (Air) Countries/Regions: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Canada, Denmark1, Fiji, Finland, France2, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Malaysia, Maldives, the Netherlands3, the Philippines, Qatar, the Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Spain4, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom5, the United States6 and Vietnam
VTL (Air) travellers are also allowed to travel to or transit via the following list of countries/regions within the last 7 days before their date of entry into Singapore:
- Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark1, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France2, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macao, Mainland China, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands3, Norway, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, the Republic of Korea, Romania, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain4, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom5, the United States6, Vatican City and Vietnam
1Including the Faroe Islands and Greenland.
2Including all overseas departments and regions (DROM), overseas collectivities (COM), overseas territories (TOM), and New Caledonia.
3Including Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten, and all special municipalities.
4Including the Canary Islands
5Including the Crown Dependencies (Guernsey, Isle of Man, and Jersey), and all British Overseas Territories.
6Including the US territories of American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands.
All fully vaccinated travellers (click here for definition of fully vaccinated) except the work permit holder types below are allowed to enter under the Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTLs):
The task force had previously announced that these streamlined measures would take effect on Feb 25, but the move was postponed when infections surged over the past few weeks.
Here are key updates to Covid-19 measures announced by the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Friday March 11, 2022:
Business Events: Changes in capacity limits
Instead of fixing size limits for various event types, Singapore will move to setting event sizes based on the capacity of the venue. From March 15, specific event size limits for occasions such as religious services, business events, media conferences, funerary memorial events, wedding receptions and mask-on classes will be lifted. Zoning requirements will be removed, as the main protection is through masks and vaccinations.
Bigger events and settings which pose more infection risks will still have capacity limits imposed as a precaution. These include attractions, cruises, Mice (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) and large work-related events, as well as large performing arts venues or sports stadiums.
Households can have five visitors at any one time: From March 15, the maximum number of unique visitors per household will be adjusted from five people per day to five at any one time. The permissible group size remains at five people.
Safe distancing encouraged but not required in mask-on settings: From March 15, safe distancing is encouraged but will not be needed between individuals or groups in all mask-on settings. Safe distancing will continue in all mask-off settings. Where safe distancing is needed, the distance will be adjusted to 1m for all settings.
Streamlining of safe management measures: As previously announced, safe management measures will be simplified to five important and effective ones.
Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the task force, stressed that the simplification of measures should not be seen as an “easing of rules” but as a “rationalisation” of measures. The five measures are group sizes, mask-wearing, workplace requirements, safe distancing and capacity limits. Safe management rules will be the same in the workplace as in the community. For instance, workers who have their masks on will not need to maintain 1m safe distancing in the workplace. Social gatherings at workplaces will also be allowed to resume with up to five people for each gathering.
There will be no restrictions on cross-deployment of employees across workplaces, although employers may continue to do so for business continuity reasons.
To read the full report, please click on this link
All travellers from vaccinated travel lane (VTL) and low-risk areas will need only an unsupervised antigen rapid test (ART) within 24 hours of their arrival into Singapore.
The new rule takes effect next Tuesday (March 15) and will replace the previous requirement for a supervised self-swab ART, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Friday. The ministry noted that the number of imported infection cases has stayed low and makes up only about 1 per cent of total daily infections. “(This is) because many countries have already passed the peak of their Omicron infection waves,” MOH said.
The new requirement will apply to travellers coming from areas with low-infection rates, such as China, Macau and Taiwan.
It will also apply to vaccinated travellers coming in from places Singapore has VTLs with, such as Australia, South Korea and the United States.
Travellers are required to report their unsupervised self-swab ART test result at this website before proceeding with their activities here. They will still have to take a pre-departure ART or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test within two days before their departure to Singapore.
The new requirement is an important step to prepare for a new Vaccinated Travel concept in the coming weeks, MOH said.
Elaborating on this concept at the press conference of the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19 on Friday, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said Singapore would eventually like to introduce a concept of a vaccinated traveller, rather than have different VTLs for different countries. The new concept would simplify and free up international travel, allowing people to travel as long as they are vaccinated, regardless of where they come from, and if the appropriate tests are done.
“Except for a very small group of countries which we may have variants of concern – then we will have to restrict travel from that particular group,” he said.
Meanwhile, travellers arriving from places that are not on the VTL list, or those from areas under the restricted countries category, will still have to serve a seven-day stay-home notice. Those from restricted countries will also have to take an on-arrival PCR test. There are currently no countries under this category. Travellers are strongly advised to visit the SafeTravel website to check the latest border measures for the country or region before entering Singapore, and be prepared to adhere to the prevailing border measures upon entry into Singapore.
Source: Straits Times 2022-03-10
Restrictions to be lifted soon: Following the lead of Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines, Malaysia has announced that self-isolation restrictions for fully vaccinated visitors will be lifted as of 1st April. Vaccinated travellers will need to take a PCR test two days before arriving in Malaysia, as well as an antigen test during the first 24 hours after entry.
- Singapore via the Causeway should utilise the Vaccinated Travel Lane (Land), and those who are intending to travel from Batam and Bintan to Singapore via ferry should use the Vaccinated Travel Lane (Sea). VTP (Sea/Land) and VTP (Air) are not interchangeable.
- Travellers holding an existing valid entry approval letter under other non-VTL SafeTravel Lanes but wish to travel under the Vaccinated Travel Lane should follow VTL procedures instead, including applying for a Vaccinated Travel Pass if necessary.
On this page, you will find the following key information on the VTL (Air):
- VTL (Air) Countries/Regions
- Application for Travel under the VTL (Air)
- COVID-19 Tests and Documents Required
- Frequently Asked Questions
Travellers intending to leave Singapore to a VTL (Air) country/region, must check with the authorities of their desired destination on the prevailing entry requirements of the destination. For all departure-related advisories, please visit the “Departing from Singapore” page .
1. VTL (Air) Countries/Regions
Travellers may only have travelled to or transited via “Active VTL (Air) Countries/Regions” within the past 7 days, for travellers entering Singapore based on their date of entry into Singapore. The effective dates for VTLs which have yet to commence are stated below. For instance, travellers entering Singapore on or after 25 Feb can have travel history to the UAE within the past 7 days. Those entering Singapore prior to 25 Feb may not have travel history to the UAE.
SC/PRs with travel history to countries that are not listed within the “Active VTL (Air) Countries/Regions” will be subject to the prevailing health measures. All other travellers will be denied entry into Singapore.
|Active VTL (Air) Countries/Regions|
2Including all overseas departments and regions (DROM), overseas collectivities (COM), overseas territories (TOM), and New Caledonia.
3The Vatican City is an independent city state and is not considered part of Italy.
4Including Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten, and all special municipalities.
5Including the Canary Islands
6Including the Crown Dependencies (Guernsey, Isle of Man, and Jersey), and all British Overseas Territories.
7Including the US territories of American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands.
|For travellers entering Singapore from 3 Mar 2022, 2359h|
|Israel and the Philippines|
Singapore to start VTLs with HK, Philippines, all of Thailand, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Israel
SINGAPORE – Vaccinated travellers will be able to fly into Singapore from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates without quarantine from Feb 25, following an expansion in the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme.
Vaccinated travellers will soon also be able to fly into Singapore from all cities in Thailand without quarantine.
From March 4, Singapore will also start VTLs for Israel and Philippines, to establish two-way quarantine-free travel with these two countries.
These changes come as Singapore pivots its border control measures to ensuring that visitors to the Republic are well protected from Covid-19, so that they do not burden the healthcare system should they get infected here, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Wednesday (Feb 16).
Transport Minister S. Iswaran noted that with greater certainty over the nature of the Omicron variant and its associated risks, it is important to resume the reopening of borders and reclaim Singapore’s position as a global business and aviation hub.
“Our ultimate goal is quarantine-free travel for all vaccinated travellers,” he said at a press conference.
From next Tuesday (Feb 22), VTL travellers and those from countries and places deemed to be of low Covid-19 risk, will be able to take a supervised antigen rapid test (ART) within 24 hours of their arrival. This replaces the on-arrival polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test at Changi Airport that travellers currently have to take.
VTL travellers will also no longer need to undergo a seven-day self-supervised ART testing regime after arrival.
The moves, announced by the multi-ministry task force handling the Covid-19 pandemic on Wednesday (Feb 16), effectively end a three-month pause in the reopening of Singapore’s borders.
They are also the first steps in Singapore’s move towards opening up to all vaccinated travellers.
The lone tightening of border restriction is with Hong Kong, as Singapore will stop its unilateral opening arrangement with the city following the Health Ministry’s review of the public health situation there.
Applications for quarantine-free entry for Hong Kong travellers into Singapore will cease from Feb 17. Instead, a new VTL will be started for Hong Kong from Feb 25. This means that only vaccinated travellers from Hong Kong can enter Singapore without quarantine, as opposed to all travellers.
Testing regimes simplified for VTL travel and recently-recovered travellers (January 22, 2022)
TRAVELLERS using the vaccinated travel lanes (VTL) only need to do an unsupervised antigen rapid test (ART) from Day 2 to Day 7 of their arrival to Singapore if they are going out, the Ministry of Health said on Friday (Jan 21).
This will kick in from Jan 23, 2359 hours. These travellers do not need to submit their ART results but must test negative before going out.
Meanwhile, those who test positive on ART are not required to undergo a confirmatory Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test and can recover under Protocol 2 unless they identify themselves as potentially at risk, in which case they should visit a doctor for medical advice after testing positive even if they feel well, said MOH.
Under Protocol 2, those who test positive for Covid are required to self-isolate for 72 hours at home. They can stop self-isolating if they test negative on an ART after at least 72 hours.
Travellers arriving via VTLs previously had to undergo a four-week extension to the enhanced 7-day testing regime to facilitate the detection of imported Omicron cases and slow transmission into the community.
VTL travellers who arrive before Jan 23, 2359 hours are still required to continue with this regime and do unsupervised self-administered ART on Days 2, 4, 5 and 6 with submission of results online, and supervised ART on Days 3 and 7 from their arrival.
2022-01-25 LIVE PERFORMANCES, MICE, SPORTS EVENTS
All vaccinated^ : Up to 1,000 attendees.
Vaccinated performers or speakers may be unmasked, including for singing or playing of wind instruments at live performances.
Singapore Current Exhibits and Conferences Planned for Spring:
Current Regulations like to be further relaxed
This will mean that returning vaccinated Australian residents can return without having to quarantine.
Australia – which has restricted entry to the country since March 2020 – will fully reopen the border to all vaccinated visa holders as of 21st February 2022. Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated travellers will be subject to relevant state and territory quarantine requirements.
Reported by BIIA member BSG Hong Kong
This will mean that returning vaccinated Philippine residents can return without having to quarantine.
According to the Department of Tourism (DoT), the Philippines will allow fully vaccinated international tourists from 157 visa-free countries beginning yesterday, 10th February. Visitors will be required to present a negative RT-PCR test taken within 48 hours prior to departure from the country of origin. They will also be required to self-monitor their health for the first seven days after their arrival.
Reported by BIIA member BSG Hong Kong
2022-02-05 New Zealand
- Border will reopen to vaccinated New Zealand citizens and residents travelling from Australia at 11.59pm 27 February
- Reopens to New Zealand citizens and residents in the rest of the world on 13 March
- MIQ removed for most travellers in phased reconnection, replaced by self-isolation and tests on-arrival
- Unvaccinated travellers, and those who do not meet New Zealand’s vaccination requirements, who are eligible to enter New Zealand will continue to enter MIQ.
- Five-step plan prioritises returning New Zealanders and brings forward the reopening of key visa categories from 13 March in order to address worker shortages.
- Further visa categories reopen throughout the year to help accelerate economic recovery
2022-02-08 Thailand plans travel bubble talks with China and Malaysia
Thailand plans to hold travel bubble talks with China and Malaysia this month, days after resuming a quarantine-free visa program to boost tourist arrivals seen as key to sustaining a nascent economic recovery.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha’s government will soon discuss with the Chinese Minister for Culture and Tourism details of a possible bilateral travel deal, Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, a government spokesman, said Monday in a statement. Thai officials are also preparing to hold talks with neighboring Malaysia later this month for a similar agreement, he said.
Source: Caixin Global
2022-01-31 News from Thailand
Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) : News from the Recently, the World Health Organization advised countries to lift or ease their international travel bans, “as they do not provide added value and continue to contribute to the economic and social stress” and are “not effective in suppressing international spread” of the coronavirus. Most of the countries in Asia agreed that the time to revive international tourism across the Asean region was drawing near. Not only was Southeast Asia ready to reopen, but it would bounce back with resilience.
Thailand is gearing up for a return to normalcy by easing some travel restrictions and quarantine requirements and allowing normal tourists to enter the country. The government has introduced the Test and Go travel and Sandbox programs allowing vaccinated travelers to enter the country without quarantine. Fully vaccinated international travelers are permitted to enter the country by applying for Thailand Pass and get in pilot tourism areas with a total of 26 provinces including Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, and many other popular tourism destinations. Thailand’s government has done the most to revive international tourism, which is a good opportunity for you to place your first returning physical or hybrid event in Thailand. For now, Thailand is the easiest country to enter in Asia, as well as the best business event destination in Asia with high-standard safety and health protocol.
The Thai government has decided to start its quarantine-free entry program for all vaccinated travellers as of 1st February. Thailand suspended the programme in December as a result of the omicron variant, but the country has experienced low hospitalization and mortality rates despite increased case numbers.
OPENING REMARKS BY MINISTER FOR HEALTH MR ONG YE KUNG AT COVID-19 MULTI-MINISTRY TASKFORCE PRESS CONFERENCE ON 5 JANUARY 2022
- I have just given an update on the Delta wave earlier this week through a social media post so I will not repeat that information. In summary, the Delta wave has substantially subsided, and this is despite the resumption of many social activities. This means our society has become a lot more resilient to the virus than before, and we are making strides towards living with COVID-19. This is an important milestone.
- This is also the result of everyone’s efforts and our collective will. While cases rose exponentially in many parts of the world, we maintained our discipline, kept our masks on, stuck to our group sizes, got ourselves vaccinated and boosted, and kept our infection levels low.
- But an Omicron wave is imminent. Globally, Omicron is already fast displacing other variants as the dominant variant, and there have been record high daily infections in several countries.
- What is the situation in Singapore now?
- That brings me to a recent US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ruling. It has updated the travel advisory for Singapore to “Level Unknown’. This is because the US CDC is not aware of our surveillance test numbers. The Ministry of Health (MOH) is engaging the US Embassy as well as the US CDC to provide them with the necessary data.
- To be clear: we know our situation very well.
- Every week, we administer over 150,000 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. That works out to over 21,000 PCR tests per day. The positive rates for these tests are under 2 percent.
- We also have 145 wastewater testing stations across the island, in housing estates, dormitories, nursing homes etc. Only a very small handful are registering the presence of COVID-19 viral fragments.
- So we are sure that the incidence of COVID-19 in our community is currently low and stable. But Omicron is already in our community. While community cases are not high currently, and Omicron accounts for close to 20 percent of local cases, it is a matter of time before it starts to multiply quickly. We must be prepared for that.
Response Thus Far
- Let me talk about our response thus far.
- When Omicron was first detected in November last year, and scientists around the world were grappling to find out more about the variant, we adopted a cautious containment approach at that time. We closed our borders to affected countries in Africa, stepped up the frequency of testing for travellers, isolated infected individuals at National Centre for Infectious Diseases, and conducted very active and stringent contact tracing and quarantine around Omicron cases.
- Those measures helped to delay the introduction of the variant into our community and slowed the local spread. It bought us valuable time to learn more about the nature and behaviour of Omicron variant, so we can better respond to it.
- Today, we have reviewed overseas as well as local data, with the time we have bought for ourselves, and we are able to clearly map out the characteristics of Omicron. Let me go through them briefly.
- First, Omicron is more transmissible than Delta, so we must brace ourselves for a much bigger infection wave from Omicron compared to the Delta variant. For example, at the peak in late October and early November last year, we were registering about 3,000 Delta infections a day. Omicron could exceed this by a few times. At its peak, Delta infections were doubling every six to eight days, Omicron infections may double in two to three days.
- Second, the silver lining is that studies coming out from various countries including South Africa, US, UK and Canada, indicate that Omicron infections are less severe than that of Delta – and the data has been very consistent – particularly amongst the vaccinated, and more so amongst those who are boosted. Locally, we have found this to be the case as well. We have so far accumulated 2,252 Omicron cases. Out of the 2,252 cases, three required oxygen supplementation, and all had been taken off oxygen within three days. So all three are now recovering. None has required intensive care unit (ICU) care, as yet. If these same 2,252 infections had been caused by Delta, based on our experience, we would expect about 30 individuals (1.3 percent) to require oxygen supplementation, ICU care or die.
- Third, vaccines, especially boosters, retain substantial protection against severe disease and hospitalisations for Omicron cases. For example, the UK estimated that effectiveness of vaccines and boosters in preventing hospitalisation is 72% and 88% respectively.
Director of Medical Services (DMS) Associate Professor Kenneth Mak will explain these further.
- Unlike the last time I was speaking to you here, Omicron is now a better known enemy. We know how it attacks and among whom it is most likely to inflict the greatest harm, and so we can take steps to protect ourselves better, and then ride the Omicron wave as safely as we can. As a result, we are making a few policy adjustments.
First, Vaccination Validity
- First, is vaccination validity. But let me first give you an overview of where we are now in terms of vaccination. International data has shown that protection against Omicron by a primary vaccination series is weaker compared to that against the Delta variant. It also wanes more quickly, typically after five to six months. However, boosters will restore the vaccine protection against infection and severe illness from Omicron.
- Vaccination and boosters therefore continue to be our primary response. We are now delivering over 50,000 jabs a day – vaccination and boosters. Let me first talk about vaccination.
- By now, over 87 percent of our population has received two doses of their COVID-19 vaccines. Over the past months, we have managed to vaccinate well over 90 percent of every eligible age group.
- For example, for seniors aged 60 to 69 years and 70 and above, their vaccination coverage is 96 percent and 95 percent respectively. About 38,000 seniors remain unvaccinated, compared to 200,000 a few months ago. We have also recently started vaccination for children aged 5 to 11 years, and response has been encouraging.
- Our high vaccination rates have kept the number of severe cases low. As a result, even at the peak of the Delta wave, our hospitals and healthcare system were under stress but not overwhelmed.
- This reflects the resilience of our population – young and old, men and women, Singaporeans as well as Permanent Residents (PRs) and foreigners. We would have been in far worse shape if we were not a high trust society.
- For boosters, more than 42 percent of our population have received their booster doses. Amongst those eligible, 78 percent have taken up boosters. Amongst just the seniors aged 60 years and above, 89 percent have taken up boosters. So, this is encouraging.
- Even as we accelerate the pace of vaccination and boosting, we must not lose our advantage over the virus and we need to keep our wall of resilience strong. Hence our experts have been keeping a close watch on the immunity levels of vaccinated individuals.
- That is why I explained in a previous press conference that we need to treat COVID-19 vaccination as a three-dose regime for the mRNA vaccines. On that basis, the full vaccination status accorded after two doses of mRNA vaccines and three doses of Sinovac/Sinopharm vaccines, cannot last in perpetuity. The protection will wane after a few months and needs to be restored with a booster.
- I have therefore earlier indicated that there will need to be an expiry date for full vaccination status, after two doses of mRNA vaccines or three doses of Sinovac/Sinopharm vaccines. We have studied the matter and in line with the recommendation of the Expert Committee on COVID-19 Vaccination (EC19V), MOH will set the expiry to be 270 days or nine months after the last dose of vaccine of the primary series.
- So there are two durations to remember. 150 days or five months after you have taken your second dose of mRNA or third dose of Sinovac/Sinopharm vaccine – you will be invited to take your boosters. 270 days or nine months after you have taken your second dose of mRNA or third dose of Sinovac/Sinopharm vaccine and you have not taken your booster, your full vaccination status will lapse. This will amongst other things, affect your access to vaccination-differentiated venues such as malls, restaurants, libraries etc.
- This policy will be effective from Monday, 14 February 2022.
- Let me explain this new policy with some dates, just to illustrate and make it clear. From now to 13 February 2022, so long as you have taken two doses of mRNA or three doses of Sinovac/Sinopharm vaccines, regardless of how long ago you have received those jabs, you will still be deemed as fully vaccinated.
- From 14 February 2022, if your last vaccine dose was taken before 20 May 2021 (i.e. 270 days or nine months ago), your full vaccination status will lapse. To maintain your full vaccination status, you would need to take a booster vaccine dose before the deadline of 14 February 2022.
- We are setting the effective date of the new policy to almost 1.5 months from now, so that everyone whose vaccination status may lapse from 14 February 2022 has a chance to get their booster jabs early and before that deadline. Those who have not reached the nineth month expiry or who are medically ineligible for boosters will not be affected.
- We have been inviting those who have completed their primary series vaccination regime about five months ago to register for their mRNA booster shots. To facilitate bookings for booster appointments, in the coming weeks, we will send out invitations for booster shots for those aged 60 years and above earlier, around four months. We have consulted the EC19V and they are supportive of this administrative move.
- I urge all eligible individuals to take their boosters promptly. Let us remain a high trust, resilient nation.
- Another important response is to prepare our healthcare system for a potentially high number of Omicron cases.
- DMS will explain the work that we are doing to ready our healthcare capacity. In particular, if indeed Omicron infections are less severe, and hospital stays are shorter, which is what international data is indicating, we can better leverage our COVID-19 Treatment Facilities (CTFs), instead of straining our hospital resources.
- The majority of patients though would be able to recover safely at home without the need to be admitted to a hospital or CTF. Here, we will adjust our health protocols. I said at the last Multi-Ministry Taskforce press conference that we want to further empower our primary care doctors, especially our General Practitioners (GPs), to look after their patients who are infected with COVID-19. Let me explain how we are doing this.
- Most people are familiar with Protocols 1 and 2.
- Just to recap, under Protocol 1, the individual who is not well will be asked to undergo a PCR test, and if tested positive, will be placed under the Home Recovery Programme, or conveyed to Community Isolation Facilities (CIFs), CTFs or hospitals, depending on their disposition and their risk levels.
- Under Protocol 2, the patient is usually asymptomatic or has mild symptoms. They will self-administer antigen rapid tests (ART), and if positive, isolate at home for at least 72 hours. Thereafter, if they test negative with an ART, they may exit self-isolation and resume normal activities.
- We will empower primary care doctors to trigger not just Protocol 1, which they currently do, but also Protocol 2. We have since engaged our primary care partners and I am happy to share that they welcome this and the new protocol will kick in progressively from tomorrow, 6 January 2022.
- So to explain and illustrate, this means that under the new arrangement, individuals who see a primary care doctor will be clinically assessed based on their symptoms and health status. For low-risk individuals with mild symptoms, the primary care doctors will be able to make an immediate diagnosis and administer an ART on the patient.
- If positive, a medical certificate will be issued and the patient will be asked to isolate himself for the next 72 hours. After that, if they test negative on a self-administered ART, they may exit self-isolation and resume normal activities.
- At any point in time if they feel unwell, their primary care doctor will be there to support them. Anyone who feels very unwell will always be able to seek medical attention from our hospitals, and also call 995.
Living with Omicron
- To be COVID-resilient, we must ride the Omicron wave as another rite of passage, just as we have done so for Delta. At the end of the next wave, we will be even more resilient than now. And we will have achieved another milestone.
- Then, it is possible that we ride subsequent waves of COVID-19 just like we do so for influenza every year, without major issues. Getting there will require our collective effort and co-operation, and each of us doing our part and taking care of each other.
- Let me now hand the floor to DMS.
Source: Singapore Ministry of Health