Singapore is dropping pre-departure necessities for vacationers and additional easing masks guidelines
People gather in front of the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore on January 17, 2023. (Photo by Roslan RAHMAN/AFP) (Photo by ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP via Getty Images)
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SINGAPORE – Singapore is set to allow travelers who have not been fully vaccinated to enter the country without a negative pre-test starting next week, health officials said on Thursday.
The country will scrap mask-wearing on public transport from Monday to exit the “acute phase” of the pandemic, the health ministry said.
The country’s Covid task force, established in January 2020, will be deactivated.
“Our Covid situation has remained stable in recent months, despite increased travel throughout the year and public holidays and China’s move away from zero Covid,” said Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, who is also co-chair of the Covid Task Force.
“Our population has developed high levels of hybrid immunity. The risk of infections leading to serious illness or death is very low – comparable to other endemic respiratory diseases such as influenza.”
Further easing of travel and mask requirements before departure are “significant steps” marking Covid-19 as endemic and “new norm” for Singapore.
All travelers entering Singapore by air or sea will still be required to submit a health declaration before or upon arrival, the ministry said.
As well as removing the need to show proof of a negative test before departure, short-term visitors will also not be required to purchase Covid travel insurance.
Previously, visitors who were not fully vaccinated had to test negative for Covid within 2 days of their departure for Singapore.
While travelers who are not fully vaccinated can now enter Singapore without pre-departure testing, the vaccinated lanes remain “for reactivation” in case there are worrying international developments such as new variants, authorities said.
Singapore will allow travelers who are not fully vaccinated to enter the country without a negative pre-test from February 13, 2023.
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Singapore opened vaccinated lanes in April 2022 to facilitate the safe resumption of international travel.
After Singapore locked down large parts of the city-state and tightened travel and restaurant restrictions at the start of the pandemic in 2020, Singapore began lifting most of its Covid restrictions in April.
Further Covid measures were eased in late August, when authorities lifted mask requirements indoors and allowed under-vaccinated travelers to skip quarantine on arrival.
Wearing masks is made easier
Wearing masks on public transport and indoor health facilities is no longer mandatory, but Wong encouraged the public to continue wearing masks if they showed any symptoms.
However, mask-wearing is still required in places such as hospital wards, clinics and nursing homes where there are “patient interactions” and “indoor patient-contact areas,” the health ministry said.
“This is to better protect patients and healthcare workers in general from infectious diseases,” she added.
The Department of Health said private companies may also choose to maintain mask-wearing requirements as company policy for occupational health and safety or for “business continuity reasons”.
Singapore on Wednesday reported 377 cases of Covid-19, with infections continuing to fall from a record 26,032 cases almost a year ago on February 22.
Most of those infected in Singapore had mild or no symptoms.
Back to pre-pandemic levels
Singapore will continue to downgrade its disease outbreak response, bringing it back to pre-pandemic levels.
As a result, Singapore’s multi-ministry taskforce, established in January 2020 in response to Covid-19, will also step down.
The frame, known locally as Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON), will transition from yellow to green. This suggests that the disease is mild with minimal disruption to daily life.
The color-coded system starts with green at the lowest level, through yellow, orange and red – the highest risk level. At the peak of the pandemic, Singapore raised the level to orange.
According to the Department of Health, as of January, around 92% of the population will have completed the primary series of vaccinations, while 83% have “minimum protection” – which refers to the primary series and the first booster shot.
As of February 7, only 48% have received a current vaccination, meaning they will receive a second booster shot between five months and a year after the first.
Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said the “availability of effective vaccines” was a “tipping point” for Singapore’s Covid situation.
“Our high immunization coverage is one of the main reasons we are gradually restoring normal life… and [arrive] with today’s DORSCON green, endemic new standard.”
It is recommended that people aged 60 and older should have an annual booster shot, similar to influenza flu shots, Ong said.
“Many of them are currently protected by boosters or recent recovery from Covid-19. However, this will likely diminish over time given their vulnerable status.”
Those aged 12 to 59 will be “offered” an additional booster shot 12 months after their last dose if they choose to take it, Ong added.
“This is a notch below the current guidelines, meaning they are recommended. Now they are offered.”