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4-stage road map to transit Singapore to ‘Covid-19-resilient nation’: Ong Ye Kung

SINGAPORE — Health Minister Ong Ye Kung outlined on Friday (Aug 6) a four-stage road map to transition Singapore towards a future where the coronavirus causing Covid-19 is endemic or permanently circulating in the population.

  • Singapore has a four-stage plan to live with Covid-19
  • The stages are called: Preparatory Stage, Transition Stage A, Transition Stage B and Covid-19-resilient Nation
  • The first stage will begin on Aug 10 and is expected to last until early September
  • Transition Stage A will see the economy further opening up, as well as the resumption of social activities and travel
  • However, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung warned that infection cases will rise during this stage and deaths, too

 

SINGAPORE — Health Minister Ong Ye Kung outlined on Friday (Aug 6) a four-stage road map to transition Singapore towards a future where the coronavirus causing Covid-19 is endemic or permanently circulating in the population.

Mr Ong, who spoke during a press conference by the multi-ministry task force tackling the pandemic, said that these stages are called: Preparatory Stage, Transition Stage A, Transition Stage B and Covid-19-resilient Nation.

The strategy, as described by Mr Ong, is a “very careful balance between lives and livelihoods”.

PREPARATORY STAGE

The first stage will start after National Day on Aug 10 and it is expected to last until early September.

This period will see Singapore making important adjustments to healthcare protocols, rules on social activities and travel to “prepare ourselves for a transition towards a Covid-resilient nation”, Mr Ong said.

The first set of adjustments were announced on Friday and it includes allowing fully vaccinated individuals to meet in groups of up to five and dine in at restaurants and other food-and-beverage establishments, and the relaxation of rules for worship services, live performances and events.

Further adjustments will be made after the ongoing Phase Two (heightened alert), which is set to end on Aug 18, if the pandemic situation remains stable, Mr Ong added.

TRANSITION STAGE A

By early September, Mr Ong expects 80 per cent of Singapore’s population to be completely vaccinated.

“If by then, we can continue to keep the number of severe cases (and) illnesses under control, and our healthcare capacity is not overly stretched, we will be able to move to the next phase, called Transition Stage A.” 

This is when Singapore will further open up its economy, and social activities and travel will resume.

“Our lives will be more normal, (and our) livelihoods will be better protected.” 

However, he warned that there will be a likely rise in infection numbers when this stage is reached.

“The number of infected individuals with severe illnesses that require ICU (intensive care unit) or oxygen supplementation will also likely increase, especially if they remain unvaccinated,” he added.

Moreover, he said that “we must also be psychologically prepared that the death toll due to Covid-19 will also likely go up”.

Singapore still can do its best to minimise the incidence of severe illnesses and deaths, he added.

It is therefore important that Singapore continues to vaccinate as many people as possible.

“For those who are unvaccinated, we will have to try to protect them through differentiated safe management rules,” Mr Ong said, adding that vaccinated individuals can still carry the virus and transmit it to others.

Consequently, it is best that non-vaccinated individuals minimise their potential exposure to the virus at big events and at higher-risk settings such as restaurants, gyms and fitness studios.

Mr Ong also said that there will be a need for continued tests and surveillance for Covid-19.

This includes surveillance testing of travellers and the expansion of wastewater testing in dormitories or housing estates for early detection of Covid-19 clusters.

People should also get used to rostered routine testing so that those who test positive can self-isolate, or be isolated, to slow down the transmission of the virus.

“If the pandemic situation, with all these measures, remains stable at Transition Stage A, we can then consider opening up further to Transition Stage B, and eventually to a new normal as a Covid-19-resilient nation.”

Mr Ong did not elaborate on the details for the final two stages.

“Ours will be a step-by-step approach, feeling our way forward, making judgement calls along the way, instead of one big bang, where all restrictions are lifted all at once,” he said.

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Covid-19 coronavirus MOH Ong Ye Kung

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