SINGAPORE: The long-awaited Phase 3 of Singapore’s reopening will start on Dec 28, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced on Monday (Dec 14).
Social gatherings of up to eight people will be allowed in public, up from five currently. Similarly, households can receive up to eight visitors.
“So eight people can dine out together, or visit someone’s home. This will make it easier to hold family get-togethers during the festive period,” said Mr Lee in a televised address to the nation.
He added that Singapore will also ease capacity limits in public places like malls, attractions and places of worship.
“Because of your efforts, we are now ready to progress to the next phase,” said Mr Lee. “Phase 3 will begin in two weeks’ time, on Dec 28, so we will end the year with some good news.”
COVID-19: Social gatherings of up to 8 people allowed from Dec 28, further reopening of activities in Phase 3
READ: Singapore approves Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, first shipment expected by end-December: PM Lee
But the Prime Minister urged residents to not to let their guard down, as COVID-19 is “most likely still circulating silently within our community”.
“Each of us needs to play our part. By all means make use of the higher limits and reconnect with friends and family, but please do not abandon your mindset of watchfulness and caution,” Mr Lee said.
“This is absolutely not the time to relax and let our guard down or to hold a big party, imagining that the problem has disappeared.”
Mr Lee said that progressing from Phase 2 to Phase 3 is a “calibrated, careful move”, and the Government is easing restrictions in a controlled way to keep the COVID-19 situation stable. He urged everyone to continue to cooperate with the authorities, and comply with the rules and restrictions in Phase 3.
After exiting from a two-month-long “circuit breaker” on Jun 1, authorities said Singapore would reopen in three phases.
Phase 2 started on Jun 19, and the COVID-19 task force had said in October that Phase 3 could begin before the end of the year.
“BATTLE FAR FROM WON”
In his address, Mr Lee cautioned that the “battle is far from won” around the world, with many countries seeing second, third or fourth waves of infections.
Mr Lee said that international borders remain largely closed, but as trade and travel are Singapore’s “lifeblood”, its only option is to reopen borders in a controlled and safe way.
“As we do so, we will see more imported COVID-19 cases, and there will be some risk of these cases spreading to the community,” he warned.
Singapore already had a few of these cases, noted Mr Lee, pointing to an infected airport employee who likely came into contact with passengers with COVID-19, as well as a marine worker who picked up the virus after boarding ships for repair and resupply.
“This is a calculated risk we have to accept but the Government will take every precaution, and do our best to prevent imported cases from triggering a new outbreak,” he said.
Singapore’s situation, however, has improved since March and April when there were more than 1,000 coronavirus cases a day. Now on most days, there are no locally transmitted cases, he said.
Bringing the pandemic under control took “a tremendous effort and some good luck”, said Mr Lee, adding that defences against COVID-19 are now much stronger.
“I am very grateful that Singaporeans have complied with the spirit, and not just the letter of the rules. We stayed united, kept up our guard, and did not allow ourselves to become complacent over time,” he said.
“We can be proud of how far we have come.”
“LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL”
Mr Lee also announced that the first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is expected to arrive in Singapore by the end of the month, and other COVID-19 vaccines in the coming months.
Everyone who wants a vaccination should be able to get one by the end of next year, the Prime Minister said.
Concluding his address, Mr Lee said Singapore has reacted quickly and comprehensively to the crisis, marshalled resources to solve its problems and stayed resilient.
“Our situation is now stable, but only because everyone has worked so hard and sacrificed so much. Now that vaccines are becoming available, we can see light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
“As vaccinations become widespread not only in Singapore, but also in our region and the world, we can look forward to resuming more normal lives.
“Let us keep up our efforts in this final stretch, to cross the finish line together, and complete our mission to defeat COVID-19.”