People walk at a pedestrian crossing along Orchard Road shopping district in Singapore on September 9, 2021.
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SINGAPORE – Singapore announced on Saturday that it will open new travel routes for vaccinated visitors from 8 additional countries.
It came when his Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong predicted that it will take anywhere from three to six months to achieve a “new normal” of living with Covid.
The Southeast Asian country will introduce more vaccinated travel routes (VTL) – with Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Great Britain and the USA, the transport ministry said.
“All 8 countries are already open to travelers from Singapore. The VTLs will restore the quarantine-free two-way traffic between Singapore and you, “said Transport Minister S. Iswaran on Saturday.
We should respect Covid-19, but we must not let fear paralyze us.
Lee Hsien Loong
Prime Minister of Singapore
The initiative allows quarantine-free travel for vaccinated people, but travelers must take Covid-19 tests to ensure they don’t contract the virus before entering.
Applications will open on Tuesday and travelers from the countries that meet the conditions will be able to enter Singapore from October 19, the minister said.
Singapore announced the initiative with South Korea on Friday. The city-state made similar agreements with Germany and Brunei in September.
Living with Covid
In a national address on Saturday, Singapore’s Leader Lee explained when the “new normal” might occur.
“How will we know when we will come to the new normal? It will be when we can relax the restrictions, just have light” [safe management measures] stay in place and the cases stay steady – maybe hundreds a day, but not increasing, “said Lee worried or feeling strange.”
Urging the nation not to be “paralyzed by fear”, he said, “Sooner or later, each of us will encounter the virus – that means all older people will also encounter the virus”.
He said regions like Europe had reached this state, but “paid dearly for it” and lost many lives.
“It will take at least three months and maybe even six months to reach this new norm,” added Lee.
Tightening measures for unvaccinated people
Singapore will also tighten some Covid restrictions on unvaccinated people.
Those who are not vaccinated will be banned from entering shopping malls, Gan Kim Yong, Singapore’s trade minister and co-chair of the government’s coronavirus task force, said in a briefing on Saturday. Even vaccinated people are now restricted to two people entering shopping malls, he said.
Unvaccinated people are also not allowed to dine in coffee shops and food centers – open-air food restaurants in the country where they were previously allowed to, which were limited to two people per table.
The Singapore Ministry of Health said recent measures are aimed at protecting those who are more vulnerable, such as the unvaccinated and the elderly.
These restrictions come into effect on Wednesday.
Singapore’s Covid Strategy
Singapore had maintained a zero-covid strategy for most of the pandemic but began to open up after the population’s vaccination rate hit more than 80%. By October 7, 83% of the population had completed two doses of a Covid vaccine.
But after the restrictions were eased, the number of cases skyrocketed, hitting daily highs for the past few days, hovering over 3,400.
The authorities in Singapore tightened Covid measures again last month to slow down transmissions in the community and protect hospitals from congestion. They reduced the group size for social gatherings from five to two and made working from home the standard to encourage vulnerable populations such as the elderly to stay at home as much as possible.
The total number of infections on Friday stands at 120,454 with 142 deaths. However, according to the country’s health ministry, 98.4% of those infected had no or mild symptoms in the past 28 days.