Singapore Outlines Criteria for Gradual Reopening as Cases Ease

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Singapore’s battle with the Covid-19 pandemic has not yet reached the half-way point, according to a key government minister, even as the country mulls how to lift its partial lockdown measures.

“Remember the fight is far from over,” Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong, who also co-chairs a ministerial task force to tackle the virus, told parliament on Monday. “This battle against the virus is not a sprint; it’s a marathon, and we are not even at the half-way mark.”

While the city-state has and will continue to allow some gradual easing of its partial lockdown measures, key restrictions will remain in place until June 1, Wong said.

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Singapore would consider lifting its so-called “circuit breaker” measures if certain criteria are fulfilled, including reduced transmissions of the virus in the wider community as well as among migrant workers living in dormitories, Minister of Health Gan Kim Yong said on Monday.

The Ministry of Health confirmed an additional 573 virus cases as of noon local time Monday, the majority of whom are work permit holders residing in foreign worker dormitories. Five cases are Singaporeans or permanent residents. The virus has infected more than 18,000 people in the tiny island nation, though just 18 have died.

“We need to be assured that community transmission locally is stemmed, or very low,” Gan said in remarks delivered in parliament. “Community cases should ideally fall to zero or single-digits daily, with very low numbers of unlinked cases, not just for one day, but sustained over a period of time.”

  • Singapore’s government would need to make an assessment of the situation globally and for individual countries to inform the extent and approach on reopening its borders
  • “For any re-opening of our borders, we are likely to start small and selectively, and to continue to impose a mix of isolation and test requirements, to protect ourselves from new imported cases leading to community spread,” Gan said
  • As businesses open up, there will be more interactions, and higher risk of virus transmission at workplaces and in the community. Therefore, Singapore will need to step up its capability and capacity to test and detect cases early, contact trace quickly, ringfence close contacts, and establish the original source of the infection to stop other undetected transmission chains: Gan
  • Singapore has the capacity to conduct more than 8,000 polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests a day in total, up from 2,900 a day in early April, Gan said. “We are working with various private and public sector partners to increase our testing capacity further to up to 40,000 a day by later this year,” he added
  • The Southeast Asian nation plans to comprehensively review the pandemic and its responses “at the right time,” said Wong.
  • Government will have to assess the risks of dining-in at food and beverage outlets and “consider very carefully before such activities can resume,” said Wong, adding that religious gatherings and services too may take some time to resume.

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