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Singapore to ease some COVID-19 curbs as vaccination rate soars

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By Reuters
Singapore to ease some COVID-19 curbs as vaccination rate soars
Singapore to ease some COVID-19 curbs as vaccination rate soars   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2021

SINGAPORE – Singapore will from next week lift some COVID-19 curbs and ease restrictions on entry for foreign workers, its health minister said on Friday, as the share of people who have been fully vaccinated against the virus in the city state nears 70%.

Fully vaccinated people will be able to dine-in at restaurants in groups of five from Aug. 10, health minister Ong Ye Kung said, and a limit on the number of people allowed to gather socially will increase to five, from two.

“We are confident that by National Day (Aug. 9), we will have more than 70% of us receiving full vaccination,” Ong told a news conference.

Singapore has moved quickly to inoculate its 5.7 million people against COVID-19 and has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world.

It had managed to contain the virus for most of the pandemic, but recently re-introduced some restrictions after a fresh wave of infections.

“When at least 80% of our population have received their full vaccination regimens, we will be able to take the next steps towards opening up our economy, social activities, and travel,” the health ministry said in a statement.

The government has said one such step could be quarantine-free travel for fully vaccinated people in September, when it expects the vaccination rate in Singapore to reach 80%.

Singapore has officially approved the Pfizer-BioNTech, and Moderna vaccines under its national programme, but the health ministry said people who have had sufficient doses of vaccines approved by the World Health Organization would also be considered fully vaccinated.

That would include the Sinovac-CoronaVac vaccine, which the government had previously said carries significant risk of breakthrough infection.

The government will also resume entry approvals for vaccinated work visa holders and their dependants with travel history to higher risk countries from Aug. 10, the health ministry said.

Many of Singapore’s foreign workers have been unable to re-enter the city state due to border restrictions, in place since last year.