SINGAPORE — Singapore is set to allow non-fully vaccinated travelers to skip quarantine on arrival starting Monday, authorities announced Wednesday.
The country is also set to remove indoor mask requirements from Aug. 29, as it seeks to take another step toward living with Covid.
While the further easing of safety and border measures is a “significant milestone,” the country must still “be mentally prepared for any sudden change because we don’t know how this virus will mutate and what the next variant will look like,” said Singapore’s deputy prime minister Lawrence Wong, who is also co-chair of the Covid task force in Singapore.
Visitors who are not fully vaccinated will still be required to test negative for Covid within 2 days prior to their departure for Singapore. But they will no longer need to serve a 7-day quarantine at home or at their place of residence.
Currently, fully vaccinated travelers can enter Singapore without taking Covid-19 tests or undergoing quarantine.
Non-vaccinated long-term visitors and short-term visitors who are 13 years and above are currently required to apply for entry approval to enter Singapore. This requirement will also be lifted from Monday, according to the Ministry of Health.
Easing of mask requirements
Masks will be optional indoors and required in special settings, such as on public transportation and in health-care settings like hospitals, residential care homes and ambulances from Monday, the health ministry said. They are optional in taxis, private hires and in the airport.
“The reason is that, we have identified areas where essential services are being carried out in enclosed, crowded spaces and which are frequently used by vulnerable persons,” said Wong, who is also the country’s finance minister.
The decision to lift mask requirements was first announced by Prime Minster Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday.
Currently, masks are required in nearly all indoor settings, with the exception of workplaces where there are no physical interaction or customer-facing areas.
“For business and employers, they have the discretion to decide whether or not they might want to do this [from] a workplace safety point of view … we are lifting a mandatory requirement for mask-wearing but it is optional,” said Wong.
In preparation for the next wave of omicron, the health ministry said a second mRNA Covid booster is now recommended for those who are 60 years and above.
Previously, second boosters were only recommended for those who were 80 years and older.
Around 93% of the population completed the primary vaccination series as of Monday, while 79% of the total population received boosters.
The high booster rate is a “key reason” that the nation has been able to ride through the current Covid wave, said Singapore’s health minister Ong Ye Kung.
Ong stressed the need to expand recommendations of second boosters to those who are 60 to 79 years old — five months after their first booster — even though the first booster has provided strong protection against severe illnesses for those in this age group.
The health ministry also recommended that children between 5 to 11 years old receive one booster — five months after the second dose of their primary vaccination series — to boost their protection.
Covid situation in Singapore
Plans are in place for a potential new Covid wave, perhaps in the winter, said Wong.
“We are continuing to monitor closely and we have drawer plans in place for various contingencies including scaling up our healthcare capacity as well as … vaccination operations if and when the need arises,” Wong said at the press conference on Wednesday.
He added that those plans would “buy us time,” should there be a Covid wave that is aggressive and dangerous.
Average daily infections over a 7-day period fell to 2,700 as of Tuesday, as daily infections continued to fall from a record 26,032 infections on Feb. 22. Most of those infected in Singapore have mild or no symptoms.
The Southeast Asian country further eased Covid measures at the end of April. Social gatherings will no longer be limited to 10 people and people will not need to keep 1 meter apart.
In April, separate rules for unvaccinated people were also removed, with some exceptions.
Those who are not vaccinated will still not be allowed to dine in, or participate in events with more than 500 people. Neither can they visit nightlife establishments where dancing is involved.
However, food and beverage outlets won’t be required to check the vaccination statuses of customers, the health ministry said in a press release.