COVID-19 update: Mask-wearing no longer compulsory in outpatient settings, as Singapore shows stronger resilience

Expert committee recommends 2 initial doses of COVID-19 vaccines to ensure an essential level of protection, down from 3 doses

An officer wearing gloves, face shield and protective mask at a Regional Screening Centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Singapore.
An officer wearing gloves, face shield and protective mask at a Regional Screening Centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Singapore. (PHOTO: Suhaimi Abdullah/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — Mask-wearing will no longer be compulsory for patients, visitors and staff in outpatient healthcare settings from Friday (1 March), as the Ministry of Health (MOH) progressively stands down the remaining COVID-19 protocols and integrate them into broader public health programmes.

The ministry said in a media statement on Thursday that the outpatient settings include polyclinics, general practitioner clinics, specialist outpatient clinics, dialysis centres, traditional Chinese medicine clinics and dental clinics. Mask-wearing is still strongly encouraged for medically vulnerable persons, seniors and persons with acute respiratory infection (ARI) in these settings.

Mask-wearing will continue to be required for higher-risk healthcare settings, including inpatient wards, emergency departments and residential care facilities. MOH intends for this to be a standing requirement, to improve general infection control practices in these areas.

"It has been more than a year since the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) level was adjusted to Green on 13 February 2023," the ministry said of the stronger collective resilience of the Singapore population.

"During this time, we have been living with COVID-19 as an endemic disease and weathered two major infection waves without the need to impose further restrictions."

Two initial doses of vaccines sufficient

Given that most Singapore residents have had one or more prior COVID-19 infections and will have some underlying protection even if unvaccinated, the Expert Committee on COVID-19 Vaccination has recommended that two initial doses of COVID-19 vaccines will be sufficient to ensure an essential level of protection, down from the current recommendation of three initial doses.

MOH has accepted the committee's updated recommendation and encourages all eligible persons of the following:

  • Unvaccinated persons should receive two initial vaccine doses at an interval of eight weeks apart.

  • An additional dose of an updated vaccine for 2024 continues to be recommended, and should be administered around one year (and no earlier than five months) after the last dose received.

  • The additional dose is recommended for all persons aged 60 years and above, medically vulnerable individuals, and residents of aged care facilities. It is also encouraged for all individuals aged six months and above, in particular healthcare workers as well as household members and caregivers of medically vulnerable individuals.

After the expert committee's term ends on 31 March, the Expert Committee on Immunisation will take over the role of advising the government on issues relating to COVID-19 vaccination.

Four JTVCs to cease operations

In view of the stable demand for COVID-19 vaccination, MOH will cease operations at four of its Joint Testing and Vaccination Centres (JTVCs) at Ang Mo Kio, Jurong West, Pasir Ris and Yishun from 1 April. The five remaining JTVCs are located at Bukit Merah, Jurong East, Kaki Bukit, Sengkang and Woodlands.

COVID-19 vaccinations will continue to be available at more than 200 participating Public Health Preparedness Clinics and polyclinics located islandwide.

From Friday, COVID-19 surveillance statistics will be reported in the Weekly Infectious Diseases Bulletin on the MOH website.

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