Govt acknowledges recent shift in Covid-19 measures has caused 'some confusion': Ong Ye Kung

Singapore returned to phase two (heightened alert) on July 22, 2021.
Singapore returned to phase two (heightened alert) on July 22, 2021.ST PHOTO: BENJAMIN SEETOR

SINGAPORE - The Government acknowledges that the recent shift in Covid-19 measures, which saw Singapore return to phase two (heightened alert), has caused "some confusion" among members of the public, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said in Parliament on Monday (July 26).

The multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19 here had announced on July 20 that Singapore would be shifting back to this state of tighter restrictions on July 22, given the worsening situation here.

The announcement came just one day after new measures, which allowed dining in for up to five people depending on their vaccination status, had kicked in.

Mr Ong emphasised in a ministerial statement that Singapore is still committed to living with Covid-19 and a return to normalcy.

"That is the only way for Singaporeans to regain our lives and livelihoods, and for Singapore to reconnect with the world again, for our young to look into the future with hope," he said.

But he added that Singapore will not be taking the same path as Britain, which declared a "Freedom Day" and lifted all its restrictions at once, or Israel and the Netherlands, which opened up and saw sharp increases in infections and hospitalisations before having to tighten restrictions again.

"Ours will be a controlled opening. We are not going to do a big bang because, predictably, things will then blow up," said Mr Ong, adding that the task force has been working on a roadmap comprising packages of measures to be implemented step-by-step over the coming months.

However, he said those here must remember that until the nation reaches a sufficiently high vaccination rate, especially among the elderly, it will continue to be vulnerable to "unexpected setbacks".

Mr Ong added: "A high rate of vaccination will provide us with a more solid and stable base as we proceed on this journey. The higher the vaccination rate, the more solid the ground we walk on.

"So, in a way, this is the most peculiar period of our transition: We are clear about our mission, our will is firm; we have a broad plan. But we don't have enough antibodies inside us to ensure that we can follow through with our plans without a hitch."

But he emphasised that work is being done.

Aside from adjustments to safe management measures, the authorities are currently looking at remodelling Singapore's Covid-19 healthcare protocols, restoring economic and social activities, and shifting the collective psychology of the nation on infection rates and safe management measures.

He added: "Let us not underestimate the progress we have made. The roadmap is being implemented as we speak."