Prime Minister on Testing, Tracing and Vaccination
Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of Singapore.
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SINGAPORE – Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Monday that the country’s Covid restrictions could be relaxed after June 13 if the situation improves.
“Barring another super-spreader or a big cluster, we should be on the right track to bring this epidemic under control,” he said in a televised speech.
“If our situation continues to improve and the number of cases in the community decreases further, we should be able to relax the restrictions after June 13,” he said.
The Southeast Asian nation imposed stricter measures twice in May, after the number of local coronavirus infections rose in April.
The surge in cases has also led to another delay in the travel bubble between Singapore and Hong Kong.
Lee said Singapore is combating “more infectious strains of the virus” and will need to inoculate as many as possible to achieve “herd immunity” – which happens when enough people in the community are infected or vaccinated and that the disease can no longer spread quickly.
“We need to continually adjust our strategies and improve our game to keep Covid-19 under control,” he said, adding that the country will need to test, trace and vaccinate its population more quickly.
Singapore uses various types of Covid-19 tests as well as polymerase chain reaction tests, which are widely regarded as the gold standard.
“You should expect routine, large-scale, quick and easy testing to be part of our new standard,” Lee said.
As for contact tracing, people who live with close contact with an infected case will now need to be isolated. Previously, only close contacts had to be quarantined.
“This more aggressive approach will help us close the clusters faster,” he said.
As of Tuesday, more than 400,000 Singapore students will be able to book vaccination slots, the prime minister said.
Graduating cohorts and students with special needs will be given priority and will be able to start immunization on Thursday.
Young adults aged 39 and under should be able to book vaccination slots around mid-June, with Singaporeans enjoying a two-week priority window, he said.
People over the age of 60 will now be able to get vaccinated without having to register in advance, and will be able to go to any vaccination center to get vaccinated, he said.
The country reported 62,028 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 33 deaths from the disease on Sunday.
Since May 8, Singapore has extended quarantines for travelers from overseas, indoor gyms closed and social gatherings limited to groups of five.
He later announced a ban on dining on site, capped public gatherings to groups of two, and said all workers who can work from home must do so from May 16 to June 13. At that time, the government announced that it would review the measures two weeks later.
Singapore’s government last week warned of “heightened uncertainties” in the coming months due to the pandemic, but kept its growth forecast between 4% and 6% for 2021. The country’s economy grew by 1.3% in the first quarter of 2021, the fastest pace for over a year.