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Transcript of Minister Lawrence Wong's Opening Remarks at The Multi-Ministry Taskforce Press Conference on 6 August 2021

06 Aug 2021
Good afternoon. Now, we have reached the mid-term of our Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) and undertaken a review of the measures as we said we would. So far, as you’ve heard, the clusters are under control. Because of the higher transmissibility of the Delta variant, it’s been more difficult for us this time round, to bring cases down as we had before. 

What’s important is we have been able to prevent a surge in cases, an exponential and uncontrollable surge in cases that could potentially overwhelmed our healthcare system. That was the scenario that we were very concerned about when we saw the outbreaks in our hawker centres and wet markets all around Singapore. 

Fortunately, we have been able to avoid such a scenario. Overall hospitalisation and ICU cases remain low and stable. Importantly, we have used this time, as you heard just now, to vaccinate many more people in Singapore, especially our seniors. That’s why, after looking at the overall situation, we believe we are able to now ease some of the restrictions, especially for those who are fully vaccinated. 

From 10th August onwards, fully vaccinated individuals will be able to gather in larger groups of five persons. They can go out and visit one another in a group of five. We will allow for larger event sizes if they are attended by only fully vaccinated persons too. Worship services, cinemas, MICE events, live performances, sports events can go up to 500 persons, if they are attended by fully vaccinated persons. Wedding receptions can go up to 250 persons, fully vaccinated.

And we will allow fully vaccinated persons to engage in higher-risk mask-off activities. They can go out to a gym; fitness centre. They can dine-in at F&B outlets in a group of up to five persons, all fully vaccinated. Children 12 and below can join in a group of five persons for dining, so long as they are from the same household.

We will extend a special concession for hawker centres and coffee shops, because these venues provide convenient and affordable food services for many Singaporeans. They are open air venues with natural ventilation. We will allow both vaccinated and unvaccinated persons to dine-in at hawker centres and coffee shops, regardless of your vaccination status, in other words. But it will be subject to a smaller group size of two persons, and this concession is only for hawker centres and coffee shops.

Earlier we had announced a package of support measures for Phase Two (Heightened Alert) that extends throughout the one month period up to 18th August. Despite this mid-term easing, we will continue with the support measures, as was announced. There will be no change in these support measures. Let me just briefly run through this initial package of changes in Mandarin, for the benefit of the Mandarin audience.

我们来到了高警戒解封第二阶段的中期,并对防疫措施进行了检讨。 目前,感染群已经受到控制,住院和重症的病患也维持在低水平。重要的是,我们在这段期间提高了疫苗接种率,尤其在年长者方面。因此,我们可以开始放宽一些防疫措施,尤其为那些已经完成疫苗接种的人士。


在活动方面,如果参与者都完成了疫苗接种,那活动的规模也能扩大。例如: 参与宗教仪式、现场表演等的全部人士都完成疫苗接种,那活动规模可扩大到500人。我们在防疫措施上做出区别是为了保护那些没有接种疫苗的国人。

如果您还没有接种疫苗,请尽快去接种疫苗。同时,请您尽量减少在大型活动或餐馆等高风险场所与他人的接触。这样就可以保护自己, 也可以降低感染病毒的风险。

What I have just described are the changes that will take place in the first step from 10th August onwards. From 19 August, if the pandemic situation remains under control, we will consider further easing. For event sizes, we are looking at up to 1000 attendees from 500 to 1000 fully vaccinated. Operating capacity of public venues like museums, libraries and attractions and cruises, can be raised. Likewise, capacity limits for shopping malls can be raised. Work-from-home requirements will also be eased, and we will allow up to 50% of those who are able to work from home to return to the workplace. So these are the next steps of easing of measures that will be considered from 19th August.

We are easing restrictions of vaccinated persons who engage in more activities across a range of different settings. It is equally important for those who are working in these settings to be vaccinated. So for example, we say F&B dining, only vaccinated persons can dine. It's equally important for the person who is working in F&B to be vaccinated. So, we will introduce a new vaccinate or regular test requirement for people who are working in specific settings. They include, one, those who are working with vulnerable segments of the population like healthcare, eldercare or settings with children 12 and below, as well as those working in higher-risk mask-off settings like F&B, gyms and fitness centres, as well as our border checkpoints. Under this new requirement, those who are working in these settings will have to be fully vaccinated. If they are not fully vaccinated, they will have to be tested with an antigen rapid test, twice a week.

This will help to protect them, their colleagues and the people they serve in the course of their work. We will allow individuals time to get vaccinated so this new requirement will take effect from 1st October, which means that individuals in these settings who have not been vaccinated yet can get themselves vaccinated, between now and end September. The public sector will take the lead and set the example. We will introduce this requirement for all public officers. The vaccination rate is already very high across the public service, more than 94% of our officers are vaccinated. And we will continue to encourage those who have not done so to get their jabs, and then for those who are not vaccinated by 1st October, this new testing regime will apply. There are obviously details that have to be worked out. I've set out the broad framework for this new vaccinate or regular test regime, and details will be released by the specific agencies in due course.

Finally, as you already heard just now, we are and will continue to adjust some of our border measures. We are doing two things in August. From 10th of August, we will start resuming entry approvals for fully vaccinated work pass holders and their dependants to enter Singapore. We had throttled down these approvals, over the period of Heightened Alert. But now that we have reached a higher level of vaccine coverage, we will start to adjust our border measures, and we will resume entry approvals for such fully vaccinated work pass holders and their dependants, subject to prevailing SHN requirements. Next, from 20th August, we are allowing more fully vaccinated travellers from certain countries to opt out of dedicated SHN facilities and serve their 14-day SHN at home, or other suitable accommodations.

It's just useful to take a step back, remember we have a tiered system of border measures. We classify it based on the risk levels of the source countries. So if the country is very safe, low risk, we have unilateral opening. For the next level, we require travellers from those countries or those places to serve 7-day SHN, or they can do this at their place of residence. The next level is somewhat higher risk, they come in and they have 14-day SHN in a dedicated facility.

Now, from 20th August, we will identify a group of countries, which have risk levels that are acceptable to allow travellers from these places to serve the 14-day SHN at home as an option, and the full list of countries will be put out in the press statement.

We have laid out a series of moves, which will take place over the month of August. This is what we call as Minister Ong said just now, the preparatory stage. Beyond that, when 80% of our population are fully vaccinated, we will move to the transition stage and allow further easing of measures. We are taking a controlled step by step approach in reopening. Each time we make a move, we will monitor the situation closely, ensure that the number of severe illnesses is under control, that our healthcare capacity is not overly stretched, before we take the next move. So we thank everyone in Singapore for your cooperation in this journey; we seek your continued cooperation with us as we work towards becoming a COVID-resilient nation. Thank you.