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Singapore plans to vaccinate 80%, reopen with quarantine-free travel by September

Tanutam Thawan

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Photo by Tim Dennert for Unsplash

Singapore plans to fully vaccinate 80% of the population and reopen with quarantine-free travel in September. As the Southeast Asian country accelerates its vaccination campaign to hit its target within the next month, officials are preparing to reopen the country and are working to establish travel corridors with countries that have low Covid-19 infection rates. Finance Minister Lawrence Wong told Parliament today that the country aims to hit the 80% target by September.

“While other countries may have come to terms with a certain level of Covid-19 cases and even deaths, this is not the choice we want to make in Singapore… At the same time, there is no need to wait for everyone to be vaccinated before we begin to open up. That would mean holding back the entire reopening timeline until much later in the year, which is not tenable.”

Once Singapore hits the 80% target, the plan is to allow overseas travellers who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus to enter Singapore without undergoing a 14-day quarantine. The country is looking into options for those coming from countries with high infection rates and have discussed possibly allowing them to self-isolate for 7 days at home, or to undergo a rigorous testing regime instead of quarantine. Wong says those who are not vaccinated will need to undergo quarantine.

“While other countries may have come to terms with a certain level of Covid-19 cases and even deaths, this is not the choice we want to make… At the same time, there is no need to wait for everyone to be vaccinated before we begin to open up. That would mean holding back the entire re-opening timeline until much later in the year, which is not tenable.”

Initially, Singapore planned to fully vaccinate two-thirds of the population by its Independence Day on August 9. But with a recent spike in Covid-19 cases, the country shifted its plans, tightening curbs to control the virus. In response to question raised about if the country deviating from its reopening path, Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong said in a separate speech that Singapore authorities are still determined to reopen the country in the near future.

“We are determined to get to our destination of being a Covid-resilient Singapore. But our journey must take into account public health realities… Sometimes, we may need to take a detour if we see hazards ahead. This way we can ensure that we will get to our final destination safely, even though it may take a little longer.”

Since the start of the pandemic last year, Singapore has reported 64,314 Covid-19 infections and 37 coronavirus-related deaths. The most severe wave peaked in mid-May of last year at just over 20,000 active cases. As of yesterday, the country had 1,537 active Covid-19 cases. If the Covid-19 situation worsens, the country may have to take a step back on its loosening of measures, Wong says.

“At each stage of easing we will monitor the health outcomes, especially the hospitalisation and intensive care unit cases closely… We will ensure that these remain acceptable and stable, before we proceed to the next step. But if hospitalisation cases — or worse, severe illnesses — were to shoot up, we will have to be prepared to slow down, or even pull back.”

SOURCE: Bloomberg

 

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Local Thai journalist speaking fluent Thai and English. Tanutam studied in Khon Kaen before attending Bangkok’s Chulalongkhorn University.

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