From Jan 1, only those fully vaccinated can return to workplace; others must test negative for Covid-19

There are approximately 113,000 unvaccinated workers, more than 10 per cent of whom are seniors. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - From Jan 1 next year, staff who return to the workplace must be fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 in the past 270 days.

This expansion of vaccination-differentiated measures means that unvaccinated people will need to test negative for Covid-19 before they can return to the workplace. They will need to pay for these antigen rapid tests, which are valid for 24 hours.

Announcing this at a press conference on Saturday (Oct 23), Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong said 96 per cent of Singapore's workforce has been fully vaccinated. There are approximately 113,000 unvaccinated workers, more than 10 per cent of whom are seniors.

Mr Gan, who is co-chair of the multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19, also outlined other moves aimed at stabilising Singapore's Covid-19 situation, including adding China's Sinovac vaccine to the national vaccination programme, along with the existing Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty and Moderna vaccines.

This is to cater to people who cannot get vaccinated with the current mRNA vaccines.

Three doses of the Sinovac vaccine will be required for a person to be considered fully vaccinated.

However, Sinovac will not be used as a booster for people who have already gotten two doses of an mRNA vaccine.

Singapore is also changing its healthcare protocols to allow infected pregnant women to recover at home, as long as they are fully vaccinated, aged under 35 and less than 26 weeks pregnant.

The task force also said that people who are medically ineligible for any Covid-19 vaccines will be given special concessions to enter premises where vaccination is required, such as malls. More details will be released by the Ministry of Health (MOH) later.

The task force had on Wednesday announced that the tighter curbs currently in place - including restricting group sizes for dining in to two people - will be extended for a month till Nov 21.

MOH on Saturday reiterated that stabilisation measures will not stay static in the coming month, adding that it is looking at several indicators to decide its next steps.

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At present, the weekly infection growth rate - that is, the ratio of community cases in the past week over the week before - is now slightly above one.

This means infections are continuing to rise and put pressure on the healthcare system, it said.

If this number drops below one and the hospital situation remains stable, it will consider some calibrated easing of measures. This will include allowing members from the same household to dine out together.

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Elaborating on this point, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, co-chair of the task force, said the Government looks at three indicators in deciding whether or not to move ahead with easing.

These are the daily rate of increase in infection numbers, the proportion of infected people who fall seriously ill and the occupancy rates in hospitals, especially intensive care units.

MOH's daily reports will be updated with some of these numbers, so the public will be able to track them as well, he said.

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