Further Easing Of COVID-19 Restrictions Likely With 80% Vaccination Rate
SINGAPORE – The local authorities may likely further relax COVID-19 restrictions, including those applying to workplaces, after at least 80 percent of the population have been inoculated, reported The Straits Times on Sunday evening (29 August, SGT).
Singapore should be prepared to take some “bold” actions now that the majority of its population have been vaccinated, said Dale Fisher, a Senior Infectious Diseases Consultant at the National University Hospital (NUH).
“I can see it will be hard to let go of many activities, but mass testing of asymptomatic vaccinated people and quarantining those who test positive impact the economy and people’s mental health.”
“Fundamentally, we need to get more comfortable with not identifying every case and focus on protecting the vulnerable rather than identifying every case and stopping spread.”
However, Dale is also among the experts who thinks that the relaxation of the COVID-19 restrictions should be done in stages, as there are still unvaccinated people at risk.
“We have waited for the vaccine to lead us out of the pandemic, and now we need to let it do so and trust that the high immunity levels will do their job. There is no appetite to be rash and have a freedom day with removal of all restrictions at once,” he explained.
On 6 August, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong revealed that one of the criteria for progressing to Phase II of Singapore’s 4-stage plan towards reopening of the economy and becoming COVID-resilient was a vaccination rate of 80 percent.
At present, the city-state is in the Phase I, a preparatory phase that is expected to last until early-September, during which some border restrictions are being relaxed.
Thereafter, Singapore will progress into Phase II called “transition stage A”, which would involve further reopening of the economy, as long as the vaccination rate is high and the overall COVID situation is stable, with zero case surges that can overwhelm the country’s healthcare system, explained Wong.
Regarding this, Professor Teo Yik Ying revealed that the overall COVID situation is “very much” under control, despite the recent virus outbreaks at Bugis Junction and the workers’ dormitory in North Coast Lodge, as well as a higher number of COVID-related fatalities in August.
Moreover, demand for advanced hospital care has not increased despite the higher case numbers, and the number of people who were hospitalised with severe symptoms who need either oxygen or intensive care is stable.
“This is exactly the evidence that shows vaccination is able to reduce the severity of Covid-19 infection, and with high vaccination uptake in the population, we are well poised to relax restrictions even further,” added Teo, who is the dean of the National University of Singapore’s Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health.