SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addressed the nation on Monday (Dec 14) to provide an update on the Covid-19 situation and the outlook for next year.
Here are seven key takeaways from his speech:
1. Phase 3 to begin from Dec 28
Phase three of Singapore's reopening will begin in two weeks' time, on Dec 28. PM Lee said it may last quite a while, possibly a year or more.
He said progressing from phase two to phase three is a "calibrated, careful move", and that Singaporeans should still keep their guard up as the virus is most likely still in the community.
"It is vital that you stay cautious and vigilant, continue to cooperate with the Government, and comply with the rules and restrictions that will apply in phase three," he said.
2. Capacity limits in public places to be eased
Capacity limits in public places like malls and attractions, and at places of worship, will be eased in phase three.
Groups of up to eight will be allowed to congregate, up from the current maximum of five.
"So eight people can dine out together, or visit someone's home. This will make it easier to hold family get-togethers during the festive period," said PM Lee.
3. Free Covid-19 vaccinations
Covid-19 vaccinations will be free for all Singaporeans and long-term residents currently here. The entire adult population will be offered vaccinations, on a voluntary basis.
PM Lee said: "My Cabinet colleagues and I, including the older ones, will be getting ourselves vaccinated early. This is to show you, especially seniors like me, that we believe the vaccines are safe."
4. HSA approves Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine
The first vaccine that the Health Sciences Authority has approved is the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. It was identified from vaccine candidates that were being developed, with the Singapore Government beginning talks with pharmaceutical companies early in the pandemic, said PM Lee.
The Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at minus 70 deg C, and Singapore has the infrastructure and skilled personnel to handle its storage and transportation, he added.
5. First shipment of vaccine to reach by end-Dec
The first shipment of vaccines should arrive by the end of this month, making Singapore one of the first countries to obtain it.
Other vaccines are expected to arrive in Singapore in the coming months, and there will be enough vaccines for everyone here by the third quarter of next year, if all goes according to plan.
6. MOH proposes entire adult population be vaccinated, but on voluntary basis
Priority for the vaccines will be given to those at greatest risk, such as healthcare workers and front-line personnel, and the elderly and vulnerable.
The rest of the population will then progressively get vaccinated, with everyone who wants a vaccination targeted to receive it by the end of next year.
7. More than $1 billion set aside by Government
More than $1 billion was set aside by the Singapore Government to sign advance purchase agreements and make early down payments for the most promising vaccine candidates, including with Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Sinovac.
"We made arrangements with pharmaceutical companies to facilitate their clinical trials and drug development in Singapore, and attracted a few to establish vaccine manufacturing capabilities here," said PM Lee.
Local vaccine development efforts were also supported to give local researchers the opportunity to do cutting-edge work and as insurance against a disruption of the global supply chain.
"This way, we built up a diversified portfolio of options to ensure that Singapore would be near the front of the queue for vaccines, and not last in line," PM Lee added.