Singapore drops most mask mandates as Covid-19 threats recede
By Philip J. Heijmans
(Bloomberg) — Singapore will remove mandatory mask-wearing on public transport — the most enduring and visible of the Covid-19 curbs - as authorities see significantly reduced threats from the virus.
The government said Singapore’s virus situation had remained stable despite the increased travel, the winter season in the northern hemisphere and China’s shift from a Covid Zero policy. Singapore’s alert level was reduced to green from yellow, indicating the disease was mild.
From Feb. 13, mask wearing on buses and trains will no longer be mandatory. The health ministry will however retain a practice of mask-wearing in healthcare settings to protect against infectious diseases.
“It is time to step down the remaining measures in Singapore,” Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the country’s virus taskforce, said in a briefing Thursday. “We’ve had to deal with many unexpected curveballs and surprises along the way. But we managed to reach this point together because we all did our part.”
The city-state is credited with implementing one of the world’s most successful Covid-19 prevention regimes, using a balance of strict measures, emergency capacity building and vaccine awareness. It also became the first major economy in Asia to remove all restrictions for fully vaccinated travelers entering the island city last year.
Singapore sheds the longstanding curbs as the daily number of Covid patients who require intensive care remain in the single digits and there haven’t been any deaths since the start of February. Officials also have a mind on further stimulating economic activity as the financial hub grapples with the prospect that growth may come under pressure.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last month pointed to China as an example of countries that may determine the course of the global economy after the North Asian nation ended its strict Covid-19 policy in December. While Singapore expects to avoid a recession, Lee warned that new variants may continue to emerge and called for vigilance.
More than four in five among the eligible population are protected against Covid-19. Some 99.5% of known cases had either no or mild symptoms.
Here are some of the other regulations and changes:
* Covid-19 vaccination requirements remain in place for work visas including new permanent residence applications.
* The government requires those aged five years and above to achieve at least minimum protection, which is equivalent to three doses of mRNA or Novavax vaccine, or four doses of Sinovac.
* Vulnerable groups aged 60 and above should get an annual booster shot. Those below 60 years are offered additional boosters if they want it.
* All non-fully vaccinated travelers entering Singapore will no longer be required to show proof of a negative pre-departure test. They also don’t have to purchase Covid-19 related travel insurance.
* Singaporeans and residents can uninstall tracing apps. The government has deleted all identifiable data arising from the apps from its servers and databases.
* Companies are allowed to maintain mask-wearing requirements for workplace health and safety or business continuity reasons.
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