Source: Asia Pacific Region 2 – Singapore
As we have made good progress on the key enablers supporting further resumption of activities, the Multi-Ministry Taskforce will start Phase Three of re-opening from 28 December 2020. Even as we cross this milestone, we must continue to remain vigilant in the coming months and avoid an uncontrolled resurgence of cases which could slow or even reverse our progress.
UPDATE ON ENABLERS FOR MOVING INTO PHASE THREE
2. The Multi-Ministry Taskforce had outlined three pre-conditions for moving into Phase Three, which each of us has contributed to in the past few months:
a) Adherence to safe management measures. Most businesses and members of the public have been cooperating with safe management measures, and these efforts have helped keep community transmission low.
b) Sufficient testing capabilities for early detection and public health action. We have ramped up Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test capacity significantly to be able to run over 50,000 tests a day. We have also introduced antigen rapid tests for larger and higher-risk events.
c) High adoption of TraceTogether for quick and effective contact tracing. As at 13 December, around 65% of Singapore residents are on the TraceTogether Programme, and we are on track to reaching the target of around 70% by the end of the year.
FURTHER RE-OPENING IN THE COMMUNITY
3. Having assessed that these pre-conditions and enablers are in place, the Multi-Ministry Taskforce will allow for the following further re-opening of activities in the community from 28 December 2020:
a. Social gatherings will be allowed to comprise up to 8 persons, an increase from 5 persons today. Households may also receive up to 8 visitors at any point in time. To reduce the likelihood of spread, we should continue to limit our social circle to a small group of regular contacts.
b. We will gradually increase the capacity limits of premises. For malls and large standalone stores, we will increase the capacity limit from 10 square metres per person to 8 square metres per person; attractions may also start applying to the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) to increase their operating capacity from 50% to up to 65%. Measures must continue to be put in place to prevent crowding in popular areas.
c. Religious Organisations (ROs) have been piloting increases in congregational and other worship services to up to 250 persons and allowance of live music for congregational and other worship services since 3 October 2020. The pilot has shown that the ROs were able to enforce safe management measures such as ensuring clear segregation between zones and minimising intermingling between groups of up to five persons. Hence, we will allow all ROs to increase their capacity for congregational and other worship services to up to 250 persons (in zones of up to 50 persons each for congregational services). Congregational and other worship services as well as religious rites/ prayers conducted at places of worship may involve live performance elements (e.g. with a limited number of singers, wind and other instruments) with the necessary safe management measures in place.
d. For marriage solemnisations held in the home, currently, a total of 10 persons (including members of the hosting household, excluding the solemniser and vendors) are allowed. In Phase Three, the hosting household will be able to invite up to 8 visitors (excluding members of the hosting household, the solemniser and vendors), even if this exceeds the existing cap of 10 persons.
e. Marriage solemnisations (in indoor venues only), funerals and funerary-related activities will also be allowed to have live instrumental music (except for wind instruments) with the necessary safe management measures in place.
f. Live performances in the Arts and Culture sector have been allowed to resume since 1 November 2020. Some venues have been piloting larger-scale performances of up to 250 persons and outdoor performances of up to 100 persons. Going forward, we will allow indoor live performances to have up to 250 persons in zones of up to 50 persons each. We will also be expanding outdoor live performance pilots to 250 persons in zones of up to 50 persons each, to ensure that venues are still able to safely manage larger outdoor performances and mitigate the gathering of peripheral crowds.
4. We will continue to conduct pilots in some higher-risk activities and settings such as busking and live performances in outdoor venues, karaoke, nightlife, which will allow us to assess how these activities can take place and scale up safely.
5. If the local COVID situation remains stable and we are able to deploy more of our enablers to allow more activities to resume safely, the Multi-Ministry Taskforce will consider allowing further resumption of activities, over the course of Phase Three.
6. TraceTogether-only SafeEntry, where the TraceTogether App or Token is required for SafeEntry check-ins, will only be implemented early next year, after everyone who wants a Token has had a chance to collect one at a Community Club or Centre in their constituency. Until we implement TraceTogether-only SafeEntry, visitors can still perform SafeEntry check-in via the TraceTogether App, SingPass Mobile, or QR reader apps, or use their identity cards with barcodes such as NRIC, Pioneer or Merdeka Generation cards, and so on.
KEEPING OUR MIGRANT WORKERS SAFE
7. As we move into Phase Three of our re-opening, we are also taking stock of our efforts to prevent any new COVID-19 outbreak in our migrant worker dormitories, and reviewing how we can continue to keep our migrant workers safe – both physically and mentally. Our migrant workers’ contributions to Singapore are immense, and it is our responsibility to ensure that they are well and can return home safely to their families.
8. Over the past few months, the government has been working closely with multiple stakeholders to care for our migrant workers. Through a whole-of-society effort, and with a comprehensive testing and isolation strategy, we have brought the outbreak in our migrant worker dormitories under control. The morbidity and mortality rate among our migrant workers living in dormitories were kept very low, although there were unfortunately two deaths due to COVID-19 amongst this group.
9. By August 2020, all migrant workers living in dormitories had undergone at least one test for COVID-19, and almost all have been cleared to return to work safely. Among other measures to detect and contain new infections, we will continue to carry out Rostered Routine Testing (RRT) of every worker who is still susceptible to infection.
10. We will also start a pilot scheme in 1Q 2021 with some dormitories to allow migrant workers to access the community once a month, subject to compliance with RRT, wearing of contact tracing tokens and safe living measures.
SECURING SINGAPORE’S ACCESS TO VACCINES
11. Vaccination is one of the key enablers to protect us and our loved ones against the COVID-19 disease, allow our economy to open up and more social activities to resume. It will also enable all of us to safely and more quickly return to normalcy.
12. Safety and efficacy of the vaccines for Singaporeans are key. The government has put in place stringent processes to assess the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines we bring in and ensure they comply with the World Health Organization’s guidelines and international standards on safety and efficacy. Health Sciences Authority (HSA) is reviewing all the available scientific and clinical evidence in detail, and in constant consultation with other benchmark regulatory authorities around the world, to ensure that regulatory requirements and standards for safety and efficacy are met. The Expert Committee on COVID-19 Vaccination is assessing how best to deploy the portfolio of vaccines that we have acquired across all segments of the population to achieve the optimal health outcome for Singapore and Singaporeans.
13. To secure early access to safe and effective vaccines for our population, the government’s discussions with pharmaceutical companies that had promising vaccine candidates began in May 2020. We have signed Advance Purchase Agreements with Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Sinovac, and are in discussions with a few other pharmaceutical companies. HSA has since received enough scientific and clinical data, evaluated the available evidence and authorised the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for pandemic use in Singapore. Pfizer has indicated that the first batch of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines will arrive in Singapore by around the end of this month. Subsequent batches from the three companies will arrive over the course of next year.
14. We are also a strong supporter and active participant in the work of the global COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility, which enables countries to pool risk and resources, and promote equitable access to a portfolio of vaccines from different vaccine developers. Singapore has entered into a Commitment Agreement with the COVAX Facility to give us the right to purchase a certain amount of vaccines. This is part of Singapore’s strategy to securing access to a portfolio of COVID-19 vaccines for our population, while promoting and actively enabling affordable, fair and equitable access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines for all globally.
15. We have made provision for all Singaporeans and long-term residents in Singapore to be able to get vaccinated by end-2021, if there are no unforeseen disruptions to vaccine shipments. While COVID-19 vaccination will be voluntary, we strongly encourage everyone to get vaccinated when the vaccine is offered to you. To ensure the accessibility of the vaccine and enable us to achieve a higher rate of vaccination for the population, this vaccination will be free.
16. Vaccine supply will be limited globally at the outset and will arrive in Singapore in batches over several months as manufacturers ramp up production of vaccines. Therefore, we will progressively vaccinate our entire population , with our first priority for those who are at greater risk and hence most in need of COVID-19 vaccination, such as healthcare workers and COVID-19 frontline workers, and vulnerable groups, in terms of age and health, at greater risk of severe disease from COVID-19 infection. This is consistent with WHO’s recommendations. The Expert Committee has issued a preliminary set of recommendations which the government has accepted, and the Expert Committee will be sharing its detailed advice on the overall vaccination strategy for Singapore and its specific recommendations on each of the vaccines in the coming weeks, as more scientific and clinical data becomes available.
LOOKING AHEAD TO FURTHER RE-OPENING
17. Comprehensive vaccination coverage in the population will enable us to re-open further and expedite our recovery from the pandemic, but vaccination is not a silver bullet. While vaccination will protect vaccinated individuals against the disease, the virus has not been eradicated and it may still be possible for vaccinated individuals to spread the virus and infect those who are not yet vaccinated. It will thus be some time before Singapore and the entire world return to pre-COVID normalcy.
18. We cannot afford to let our guard down, especially during the upcoming festive period where we might want to meet up with family and friends, and must continue to be vigilant and keep up the good practices which we have cultivated over the past year. Our existing key enablers – safe management measures, testing, and contact tracing – continue to be necessary and effective in helping us to mitigate spread and keep community transmission low. We will continue with our checks and will not hesitate to take strict enforcement actions against any breaches, so that we can continue to keep Singapore safe from the virus.
19. We seek the cooperation of all Singaporeans to continue to remain united and disciplined in our fight against COVID-19. If we all work together, we can look forward to a safer and healthier 2021.
MINISTRY OF HEALTH
14 DECEMBER 2020