Prime Minister on tests, tracing and vaccination

Lee Hsien Loong, Singapore’s Prime Minister.

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SINGAPORE – Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Monday that the country’s Covid restrictions could be eased after June 13 if the situation improves.

“Aside from another super-spreader or large cluster, we should be on track to get this outbreak under control,” he said in a televised address.

“If our situation continues to improve and the number of cases in the community continues to decline, we should be able to relax restrictions after June 13,” he said.

The Southeast Asian nation imposed two stricter measures in May after local coronavirus infections rose in April.

The surge in cases also delayed the Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble further.

“New Normal”

Lee said Singapore is fighting “more infectious strains of the virus” and needs to vaccinate as many as possible to achieve “herd immunity”. This occurs when enough people in the community are infected or vaccinated and the disease can no longer spread quickly.

“We need to continually adjust our strategies and improve our game to keep Covid-19 under control,” he said, adding that the country needs to test, track and vaccinate its population faster.

Singapore uses different types of Covid-19 tests along with polymerase chain reaction tests which are widely considered to be the gold standard.

“You should expect routine, large-scale, quick, and easy testing to be part of our new normal,” Lee said.

In terms of contact tracing, individuals living with close contact from an infected case now need to be isolated. So far, only the close contacts had to be quarantined.

“This more aggressive approach will help us close clusters faster,” he said.

Expansion of the vaccination program

As of Tuesday, more than 400,000 students will be able to book vaccination spots in Singapore, the Prime Minister said.

Graduating cohorts and students with special needs are given priority and can start vaccinating as early as Thursday.

Young adults 39 and under should be able to book vaccination spots in mid-June, with Singaporeans being given a two-week priority window, he said.

Seniors over the age of 60 can now get vaccinated without registering and can go to any vaccination center to get their shots, he said.

As of Sunday, the country reported 62,028 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 33 deaths from the disease.

Since May 8, Singapore has been extending quarantine for overseas travelers, closing gyms and restricting social gatherings to groups of five.

She later announced a ban on eating, limited public gatherings for groups of two, and said all workers who can work from home must do so from May 16 to June 13. At that point, the government announced it would review the two measures weeks later.

The Singapore government last week warned of “heightened uncertainties” in the coming months due to the pandemic, but maintained its growth forecast for 2021 at 4% to 6%. The country’s economy grew 1.3% in the first quarter of 2021, the fastest pace in more than a year.

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