Larger gatherings, Covid-19 testing in lieu of SHN being considered for those vaccinated

Travellers to Singapore may have to undergo more frequent testing for Covid-19 instead of serving SHNs, and larger gatherings of vaccinated people could also be on the cards.
Travellers to Singapore may have to undergo more frequent testing for Covid-19 instead of serving SHNs, and larger gatherings of vaccinated people could also be on the cards.PHOTOS: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Stay-home notice (SHN) for vaccinated travellers to Singapore could soon be a thing of the past, while those who have been inoculated for Covid-19 here may be able to travel abroad and gather in larger numbers in Singapore.

The announcement comes as the Republic ramps up its vaccination drive, setting an ambitious target of having two-thirds of its population fully vaccinated by around National Day on Aug 9.

The multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19 on Thursday (June 24) said that with higher vaccination numbers, Singapore will be looking to live with Covid-19 as an endemic disease.

This could mean having travellers to Singapore and Singaporeans travelling abroad undergo more frequent testing for Covid-19 instead of serving SHN.

Larger gatherings of vaccinated people could also be on the cards, the task force added.

Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong, who co-chairs the task force, said: “With higher rates of vaccination, we will also be able to resume travelling. Those who have been vaccinated will be given some concession when travelling or returning to Singapore. 

“For example, vaccinated travellers, including Singaporeans who travel overseas and (are) returning to Singapore, may undergo more frequent testing in lieu of serving SHN,” added Mr Gan.

Travel disruptions arising from Covid-19 have put immense pressure on companies, especially those who depend on migrant workers, as well as families who depend on foreign domestic workers.

To help with this, Mr Gan said that more workers, in particular migrant workers and foreign domestic workers, will be allowed to enter Singapore.

"This will ease the immense pressures our companies have been under since the start of the pandemic, and allow small projects to restart, family members to reunite and their migrant domestic workers to join them."

During the press conference, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the task force, said that the Government will also be revising the public health guidelines for vaccinated people within Singapore, including allowing larger gatherings.

"We could allow gatherings involving just vaccinated persons to have larger group sizes and also relax the social distancing rule in such settings, because only vaccinated persons are involved," he said.

This could apply to a whole range of different settings, including religious services, sporting events and weddings.

Mr Gan noted that as Covid-19 becomes endemic here, Singapore will have to change how it approaches tackling the disease and learn to live with it. There will be people infected every day, but if the vast majority of the population is vaccinated, the coronavirus situation will be under control.

"The key is to minimise the number of hospitalisations and the number of serious cases. Instead of focusing on daily cases, we can focus on patients who are hospitalised or in the ICU (intensive care unit). This is what many other countries are doing right now."

In an article published by The Straits Times on Thursday, the co-chairmen of the task force said that Singapore will prepare its population to deal with Covid-19 as part of their daily lives.

This means people will be able to work, travel and shop without quarantines and lockdowns, even with the coronavirus in their midst.

With enough people vaccinated, Covid-19 will be managed like other endemic disease such as the common flu and hand, foot and mouth disease, said the three task force co-chairmen on Thursday, as they outlined plans for Singapore to transition to a new normal.

They had earlier announced that a road map is being drawn up to shift to this new normal, and it will be done in tandem with achieving certain vaccination milestones.

The task force said vaccination already appears to be effective in reducing the rates of infection and transmission. Most fully vaccinated people show mild or no symptoms even if they contract the disease.

The task force said that by early next month, two-thirds of the population in Singapore will have received at least one jab of the two-dose vaccines. 

The next milestone will be to have at least two-thirds of the population fully vaccinated with two doses by around National Day.

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