SINGAPORE: People vaccinated against COVID-19 will be given "some concession" when travelling or returning to Singapore, co-chair of the COVID-19 multi-ministry task force Gan Kim Yong said on Thursday (Jun 24).
This could mean a shortened stay-home notice when vaccinated travellers come into Singapore, said co-chair of the task force Lawrence Wong. It could also mean that the stay-home notice is "waived entirely" and replaced with COVID-19 tests, he added.
The guidelines will depend on the country visited, and will take into account their "risk profiles" and infection rates, said Mr Wong.
"These are the potentially revised guidelines that will apply to vaccinated persons. We are still working through them, and we will announce them when we are ready," he added.
He said these revised guidelines for vaccinated travellers "may encourage more people to be vaccinated".
READ: Singapore on track to increasing group sizes for 'higher-risk' settings in July, including for dining-in: Lawrence Wong
Overseas travel can resume when Singapore reaches "higher rates of vaccination", said Mr Gan.
“Come August, we expect about two-thirds would have been vaccinated and protected from serious illness, but two-thirds will still not be enough.
“We need to continue to press on with vaccination to achieve an even higher rate of coverage. Then we will be able to resume the higher-risk activities, which we have suspended over the last one and half years, maybe with some capacity limits imposed,” said Mr Gan, who is also the Minister for Trade and Industry.
Mr Gan added that the vaccination rates of other countries will also matter when deciding on travel arrangements.
"If they have a very high vaccination rate, it gives us greater confidence to open up travel channels with them. If their cases are low and they are able to control the infection well, it will also give us greater confidence to open up with them," said Mr Gan.
"But if their vaccination coverage is low and their cases are still rising very rapidly, even if we have a very high vaccination rate, we need to continue to be careful in allowing travellers from that particular destination."
When asked if a vaccination "target” needed to be reached before air travel can resume, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said the milestone is for two-thirds of the population to be vaccinated, but it is "actually not enough".
“So as to what kind of milestone will be tagged to what kind of opening, and ... shift in practices, I think, it will be part of the roadmap that we are preparing and working out," he said.
"But I would caution this, that there is still a lot of unknowns. This enemy is full of curveballs, always thrown at us. So we are really crossing the river, one stone at a time."
When asked about the recognition of Malaysia's contact tracing app MySejahtera as a "vaccination passport", Mr Wong, who is also Finance Minister, said Singapore is continuing "conversations with all countries".
Mr Ong added that it is important for the Government to work with "as many partners" as possible on mutually recognising digital certificates, with the view of eventually allowing air travel arrangements.
READ: About half of COVID-19 cases in Bukit Merah View market cluster not vaccinated: Assoc Prof Mak
MORE WORKERS ALLOWED INTO SINGAPORE
More migrant workers and foreign domestic workers will also be allowed into Singapore, said Mr Gan.
“This will ease the immense pressures our companies have been under since the start of the pandemic and allow stalled projects to restart, family members to reunite and their migrant domestic workers to join them,” he said.
Mr Gan noted that many construction projects have not been able to proceed because of the lack of skilled workers, many of whom are from overseas. He added that export-oriented industries also have orders to fulfil.
"Many of these sectors are also under stress, because they limited access to manpower and this is an area that we will need to look at how we can help them to resume their activities," he said.
He also noted the need for foreign domestic workers to enter Singapore to "help our families".
The Government is working to continue strengthening its precautionary measures for migrant workers upon entry into Singapore and during the stay-home notice period, said Mr Gan. It will also enhance safety measures at dormitories and workplaces.
He added that the Government is working with the "source countries" to introduce measures to prevent imported COVID-19 cases.
"As other countries, source countries' vaccination also goes up, if they are able to continue to control and manage their infection in these countries, I think we will also be able to increase the number of migrant workers that are allowed to come in," he said.
“It has been a challenging one and half years for everyone, but the progress we are making on our vaccination programme is the light at the end of the tunnel. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, we’ll be able to open up quickly and decisively once we have achieved a high level of vaccination," he added.