Singapore to Accelerate Vaccination, Flags Reopening Prospects


Singapore said it plans to give a first Covid-19 vaccine shot to most of its population by July after securing more supplies, flagging the prospect of looser travel and social-distancing rules for inoculated residents.

The government will accelerate vaccinations from June 26 as deliveries have been brought forward, according to a statement from the Ministry of Health on Thursday. The city-state will also open vaccinations to permanent residents and long-term pass holders age 39 years and younger from July 2, and is extending a priority window for Singaporeans in the same age group by an additional week.

“If supplies continue to arrive as planned, we will be able to substantially cover most of our population with a first dose sometime in July, and would have achieved our objective of giving as many people as possible some protection,” according to the statement.

Those who have been vaccinated will be given some concession when traveling or returning to Singapore, Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong, said at a briefing, without giving details such as a timeline for this to start. Singaporeans who travel overseas and returning to the city-state may undergo more frequent testing in lieu of serving a quarantine, he said.

Finance Minister Lawrence Wong also said that public health guidelines will be revised for vaccinated persons, including allowing larger gatherings and relaxing social distancing rules.

Singapore is coming under growing pressure to chart a path to reopening, as other cities like Hong Kong — which also eliminated the virus through aggressive isolationist measures — usher in policies easing social and travel restrictions for inoculated people. Places in the Asia Pacific region which contained the virus successfully, a group that includes Australia, New Zealand and China, are now being left behind as western economies reopen and normalize quickly after vaccination.

Singapore had already moved to partially ease lockdown-like measures applied in mid-May, while maintaining a conservative posture amid dozens of recent cases in the community. The country reported 14 new local cases of Covid-19 on Thursday, with 2 of them unlinked to earlier infections.

The briefing comes after the co-chairs of the nation’s task force wrote an opinion editorial in today’s edition of the Straits Times. The leaders said that they are “drawing up a road map to transit to this new normal” and acknowledged that the people have grown “battle-weary” after confronting the pandemic for the past 18 months.

“We are currently working out the roadmap, and the timing to reopening based on vaccination rates, and we will share more details when we are ready,” said Gan.

Mass Vaccination

Under the accelerated program, Singapore will be able to administer up to 80,000 daily doses, up from 47,000 currently and around 40,000 in May. With the announcement, the government has effectively reached out to the last group of residents as part of its campaign to inoculate most of the population.

More than 70% of those aged 40 and up in the city-state have either gotten one or more vaccine doses, or made an appointment to do so. Yet just 39% of Singapore citizens 12 and up have gotten a dose or booked a slot.

The government is giving them one more week before opening the opportunity to younger expatriates, the last adults made eligible for vaccines.