Singapore will accelerate its vaccination programme from tomorrow and nearly double the number of doses administered daily, paving the way for more restrictions to be eased down the road.
Up to 80,000 vaccine doses will be administered daily, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said yesterday, up from 47,000 now and 40,000 last month.
The ramp-up, which stems from vaccine deliveries being brought forward, allows the Republic to set a new target of having two-thirds of the population fully vaccinated by around National Day on Aug 9, said Mr Ong, co-chair of the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19, at a virtual press conference.
This comes a day after the task force spelt out plans in a Straits Times article for Singapore to transition to a new normal, where Covid-19 will be managed like other endemic diseases.
With vaccination on track, public health guidelines can be revised.
"We could allow gatherings involving just vaccinated persons to have larger group sizes, and also relax the social distancing rules in such settings because only vaccinated persons are involved," said Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, who is also co-chair of the task force.
These settings could include religious services, concerts and sporting events.
Also on the cards are new guidelines that will enable Singapore residents travelling abroad to serve a shorter stay-home notice or have it waived entirely and replaced with Covid-19 tests, depending on the country visited.
Singapore is also on track for the next stage of its reopening around the middle of next month, when dining in at food and beverage (F&B) outlets will be allowed for groups of up to five, up from the current two.
"With vaccination on track, with the regular testing of workers in these higher-risk settings proceeding, we should be able to get there," said Mr Wong.
Vaccination will also help sectors hit by the pandemic, Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong said.
It will mean that more foreign domestic workers can come into Singapore, as well as other migrant workers to help the construction sector and export-oriented industries. Having more people vaccinated could also kick-start the hospitality and tourism sectors.
Even as Singapore sets its sights on having two-thirds of the population fully vaccinated by around National Day, Mr Ong stressed that this is an interim milestone, and the Republic will have to get more people vaccinated beyond this target, particularly seniors, who are more vulnerable.
As at Wednesday, more than three million people - or about 53 per cent of the population - have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
If supplies continue to arrive as planned, most residents willing to take the vaccine will have received their first dose by the second half of next month, giving them some protection against Covid-19.
Following that, the Ministry of Health will review the current interval between doses of six to eight weeks, which should be reduced to four weeks, and some appointments for second doses should be brought forward.
Still, the task force is mindful that Covid-19 is a "shape-shifting enemy" that will continue to throw up curveballs along the way, Mr Ong said.
"We must be prepared to adapt... but we are determined to see through this endgame," he said.
"Then we'll be able to put circuit breakers behind us, F&B and gym closures behind us, be able to have bigger events, be able to have bigger wedding receptions, and then overseas travel without stay-home notices and quarantine."
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Facebook yesterday that vaccination is a crucial strategy for Singapore to live with endemic Covid-19. "Let's all play our part, so that come Aug 9, we can hit that target and celebrate our nation's birthday with pride and joy."