New VTL testing rules, suspension of hospital visits: New Covid-19 rules at a glance

The task force stressed that existing safe management measures will continue to be enforced during the upcoming Chinese New Year period. PHOTOS: ST FILE, LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - New measures were announced on Friday (Jan 21) by the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19 to help Singapore prepare to deal with the new Omicron wave.

1. In-person visits to hospital wards and residential care homes suspended

From Jan 24 to Feb 20, hospitals and care homes have the discretion to allow visits for exceptional cases, such as when a patient or resident is critically ill. PHOTO: ST FILE

Visits to all hospital wards and residential care homes will be stopped for a period of four weeks, from Jan 24 to Feb 20.

This is to better protect patients and healthcare workers from the wave of Omicron infections, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said.

During this period, hospitals and care homes have the discretion to allow visits for exceptional cases, such as when a patient or resident is critically ill.

Other patient groups, including paediatric patients, birthing or post-partum mothers and patients requiring additional care support from caregivers, might be allowed visitors on a case-by-case basis.

These groups are allowed one pre-designated visitor with one visit per day.

Hospitals and homes will continue to support other methods of communication such as video calls, MOH said.

READ FULL STORY: Visits to hospital wards, nursing homes suspended for 4 weeks amid Covid-19 Omicron surge

2. Maximum isolation period shortened to seven days for some

Unvaccinated individuals aged 12 and above will continue to have a maximum isolation period of 14 days under Protocols 1 and 2. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

The maximum isolation period for fully vaccinated individuals and children below the age of 12 will be shortened from 10 days to seven days, given Omicron's shorter infectious period, MOH said.

This will apply for those under Protocols 1 and 2.

Those under Protocol 1 are assessed by doctors as high risk or with significant symptoms, while those under Protocol 2 are lower-risk individuals with mild symptoms and who can be diagnosed by an antigen rapid test (ART).

With immediate effect, MOH will also expand the age bracket suitable for Protocol 2 to include children aged five to 11, regardless of their vaccination status.

"We urge those with non-emergency conditions, including children, to avoid seeking treatment at hospitals and to consult their primary care doctor instead," MOH said.

Unvaccinated individuals aged 12 and above will continue to have a maximum isolation period of 14 days under both protocols.

READ FULL STORY: Isolation period cut from 10 days to seven for those fully vaccinated against Covid-19

3. Booster shots extended to those 12 to 17 years old

Those aged 12 to 17 will need the consent of a parent or guardian to book an appointment for a booster dose. PHOTO: ST FILE

Those aged 12 to 17 are now also recommended to receive a booster dose of an mRNA vaccine.

From early February, MOH will progressively invite individuals to receive their booster dose - starting with those aged 16 and 17, followed by those aged 12 to 15.

Those aged 12 to 17 will need the consent of a parent or guardian to book an appointment. They can receive their booster at any vaccination centre offering the PfizerBioNTech/Comirnaty vaccine.

Those aged 13 and above are not required to have a parent or guardian to accompany them on the day of vaccination.

But those aged 12 and students in Special Education schools will need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Those who are medically ineligible for the PfizerBioNTech/Comirnaty vaccine will be offered a Sinovac-CoronaVac booster dose.

This programme will also be extended to children aged five to 11 who are medically ineligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty vaccine for their primary vaccination series.

4. Those aged 12 and above need boosters to maintain vaccinated status

From March 14, people aged 12 to 17 will be required to take their booster dose to maintain their fully vaccinated status. PHOTO: ST FILE

Young people aged 12 to 17 will also need booster shots to maintain their fully vaccinated status from March 14.

From that date, they will be considered fully vaccinated for only 270 days after their last primary series dose, and will require a booster dose to maintain their vaccinated status thereafter.

It was previously announced that from Feb 14, persons aged 18 and above will be considered fully vaccinated for only 270 days after the last dose in their primary vaccination series.

Those who have recovered from Covid-19 and have completed their primary series vaccination do not require a booster dose at this point in time. But it is safe for such persons to receive a booster dose from five months after their last dose.

READ FULL STORY: Those aged 12 to 17 can take booster from February, must do so to keep vaccination status

5. Calibrated testing regime for VTL travellers

Vaccinated travel lane travellers who arrive before 11.59pm on Jan 23 must continue with the existing testing regime, including supervised ART on days three and seven of arrival. PHOTO: ST FILE

Vaccinated travel lane (VTL) travellers entering Singapore after 11.59pm on Jan 23 by both land and air will only be required to do unsupervised self-administered ARTs from day two to day seven of their arrival if they need to leave their place of residence or accommodation.

Those who arrive before this time must still continue with the existing testing regime, including supervised ART on days three and seven of arrival.

Those who test positive on their ARTs no longer need to undergo a confirmatory polymerase chain reaction test, but will fall under Protocol 2 and recover at home, if they are not potentially at-risk patients.

In addition, travellers who arrive after 11.59pm on Jan 23 and who are fully vaccinated and have recovered from Covid-19 within the last 90 days will be exempted from all testing and stay-home notice requirements if they can provide documentary proof.

There will continue to be a 50 per cent limit on VTL flight and bus tickets for entry into Singapore for now, MOH said.

"We will continue to monitor the global Covid-19 situation and adjust our border measures in tandem with our road map to becoming a Covid-resilient nation," it added.

READ FULL STORY: VTL travellers to take ART only if they leave home, no need to report results

The task force also stressed two other points:

1. Ensure business continuity plans are in place

Employers must ensure that employees on-site do not participate in social gatherings and have their meal breaks individually. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Firms, especially those that provide essential services, should ensure they have robust business continuity plans, MOH said. 

These include split-team arrangements, and companies must also adhere strictly to workplace safe management measures to minimise transmissions.

“As observed in other countries which have already experienced Omicron waves, high case numbers in our workforce can disrupt business operations,” MOH said. 

“Even if workers who are infected have mild or no symptoms, health protocols will require them to be isolated. As the number of infections could potentially be very large, absenteeism rate can go up very sharply.”

Those returning to the workplace should also test themselves regularly, MOH added. 

Those who are unwell should visit a doctor and avoid entering the workplace.

READ FULL STORY: Businesses must prepare for Omicron's impact on manpower and operations

2. Uphold prevailing safe management measures during Chinese New Year

The maximum number of unique visitors per household stays at five people a day. PHOTO: ST FILE

The existing safe management measures should be followed during the upcoming Chinese New Year period, MOH said. 

These include keeping to the permitted group size for social gatherings, which remains at five people. 

The maximum number of unique visitors per household also stays at five people a day. 

People may wish to take an ART before such gatherings, especially if there will be elderly or unvaccinated family members there. 

Social gatherings are also capped at five at food and beverage establishments, including for reunion dinners. 

Multiple table bookings that exceed five people are not permitted, unless they are from the same household. 

Large-scale events like dinner banquets and religious processions, including company-organised meals, are also not allowed, to avoid a superspreading event, MOH added.

READ FULL STORY: Group size for CNY remains at 5 people, Covid-19 Omicron surge likely to continue into February

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