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20 Nov 2021

20th Nov 2021

On 20 October 2021, the Multi-Ministry Taskforce announced the extension of the Stabilisation Phase for four weeks, through to 21 November 2021. With the efforts and cooperation of everyone, our overall infection numbers and hospital situation have largely stabilised and improved. In the coming weeks, a significant proportion of the population would have had or will be receiving their vaccination boosters. Overall, we are in a better position to proceed with further easing of our community Safe Management Measures (SMMs), in a careful and calibrated manner, and exit the Stabilisation Phase into a Transition Phase. 

2. From 22 November 2021, we will increase group sizes for dine-in and social gatherings from 2 to 5 persons, irrespective of whether the group members are from the same household or not. We will also extend our Vaccination-Differentiated Safe Management Measures (VDS) to protect the unvaccinated from getting infected and becoming severely ill. In-person visits to hospitals and residential care homes will also resume with VDS in place. To enhance protection for our population as we ease community measures, we will also accelerate our booster vaccination programme.  

3. Even with these moves, it is important that we remain disciplined and vigilant. While the local situation is stabilising and our healthcare system is still able to manage the current caseload, we must not let our guard down. We should not seek to push the limits, but should continue to exercise restraint in our social interactions even as we approach the year-end period. All of us need to continue to play our part to prevent another wave of infection which could put pressure on our healthcare system. 

Updates on Local COVID-19 Situation and Healthcare Capacity

4. The week-on-week ratio of community cases has remained stable at around 0.8 to 1.0 this past week. Daily case numbers have come down to less than 3,000 a day on average. Out of the infected cases, close to 99% of cases continue to have mild or no symptoms and the vast majority are recovering well at home. 

5. The proportion of patients who require oxygen supplementation has held steady at 0.8% of our total cases, and those who require intensive care unit (ICU) care is at 0.2%, in the past 28 days. The number of cases in the ICU remains high but stable in the past week at around 120 cases per day. Our overall ICU occupancy in the past week is at approximately 60%. The unvaccinated continue to make up a disproportionate number of ICU patients and those requiring hospitalisation.

Updates to Safe Management Measures from 22 November 2021

(A) Increase in Social Gathering Group Size

6. From 22 November 2021, we will increase the permissible social gathering group size from 2 persons to 5 persons. The cap of 2 distinct visitors per household per day will correspondingly increase to 5 distinct visitors per household per day. As far as possible, we should accept only visitors who are vaccinated, so as to protect those who are unvaccinated from exposure to the virus. Unvaccinated individuals should also exercise caution and protect themselves by reducing their movement and staying at home as much as possible. In addition, visitors to households that have an unvaccinated person or vulnerable elderly are strongly encouraged to test themselves prior to the visit to ensure that they do not unwittingly transmit COVID-19 to those who are vulnerable.  

(B) Vaccination-Differentiated Safe Management Measures (VDS) for F&B settings

7. Groups of up to 5 persons, even if not from the same household, will be allowed to dine-in at Food and Beverage (F&B) establishments if all the diners are fully vaccinated. Unvaccinated children aged 12 years and below (i.e. born in 2009 or later) may be included within the group of 5 persons as long as all these children are from the same household. As previously announced, medically ineligible persons may also be included within such groups of 5 persons from 1 December 2021. Nevertheless, we continue to caution medically ineligible persons of their susceptibility to severe illness if infected with COVID-19, and urge them to be careful despite such a concession. 

8. Such groups of up to 5 persons will only be allowed to dine-in at hawker centres and coffee shops where full VDS checks have been implemented. The initial batch of hawker centres and coffee shops that are ready will start such checks from 23 November 2021, and more will do so when ready with access control and systems to perform vaccination checks at entry points. Otherwise, dining-in at hawker centres and coffee shops without full VDS checks will remain at groups of up to 2 fully vaccinated persons. Unvaccinated individuals are not allowed to dine-in and may continue to only take-away food from these establishments. The National Environment Agency (NEA) has been actively consulting the Hawkers’ Associations, and working with the Town Councils and NEA-appointed operators, to also implement access control with vaccination checks at entry points at the remaining hawker centres by the end of November 2021. NEA and the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) will share more details on the first group of hawker centres and coffeeshops.

(C) Marriage Solemnisations and Wedding Receptions 

9. We will be adjusting the SMMs for Wedding Solemnisations and Wedding Receptions from 22 November 2021 so that couples may safely include more activities in their wedding celebrations. This includes unmasking by the wedding couple throughout the reception or solemnisation event, and singing by members of the Wedding Party at the reception, subject to additional precautions. To include such activities in their event, the wedding couple or such individuals from the Wedding Party will be required to (i) undergo an Antigen Rapid Test (ART) minimally supervised by the venue operator1; or (ii) have a valid PET obtained within 24 hours prior to the event. More details will be provided in a separate advisory by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF).

(D) Expanding VDS to More Venues

10. Vaccination is key to protecting our population even as SMMs are further relaxed. From 1 December 2021, we will expand VDS to more settings and activities, including in all Libraries under the National Library Board (NLB), and selected activities in community clubs/centres under People’s Association (PA). By restricting entry to only individuals who have been fully vaccinated, we can further reduce the risk of transmission in such settings. 

11. A summary of the updated community measures from 22 November 2021 can be found in Annex A

(E) Removal of VDS Concession for Voluntarily Unvaccinated Individuals 

12. We will further strengthen efforts to protect unvaccinated individuals from getting infected, as they are subject to greater risks of severe illness. Under current rules, unvaccinated individuals can get a PET and show a negative test result to enter a VDS setting. We will remove this concession for unvaccinated individuals to perform PET in lieu of being fully vaccinated.  Hence, only fully vaccinated, recovered, or medically ineligible individuals, or children aged 12 years and below (subject to venue/event-specific caps) will be allowed to enter settings where VDS is implemented. We will effect this on 1 January 2022, to allow time for more individuals to complete their primary series vaccination regime. 

Further Resumption of Senior-Centric Activities 

13. In line with our updated adjustments to SMMs and drawing lessons from the resumption pilots launched to-date by the People’s Association and SportSG, we are working on the resumption of more senior-centric activities in a safe manner, enabled by the use of VDS for such activities. In the coming weeks, seniors can look forward to more active-ageing programmes such as exercise programmes offered by the Health Promotion Board and participate in other forms of learning under the National Silver Academy. Details will be released soon.

Resumption of In-Person Visits to Hospitals and Residential Care Homes with VDS In Place

14. To continue protecting vulnerable individuals in our hospitals and residential care homes (Homes) but conscious also of the well-being of our patients and residents, we will resume in-person visits to hospitals and Homes with enhanced VDS-related measures in place, from 22 November 2021. The strict implementation of such VDS measures will minimise the risk of outbreaks, which may otherwise jeopardise the lives of vulnerable patients and residents and affect the operating capacity of our hospitals and residential care homes. 

15. Such in-person visits will be allowed only when both the hospital patient/ Home resident and their visitors are fully vaccinated. As a concession, we will also allow visits for medically ineligible patients/residents and visitors. If the patient/resident and/or visitor are not fully vaccinated, in-person visits will only be allowed under exceptional circumstances on a case-by-case basis, as advised by the hospitals and Homes. More details for visits to hospitals and Homes can be found in Annex B. For avoidance of doubt, this measure does not apply to individuals seeking medical care from our hospitals.

Tapering of Support Measures 

16. As we exit the Stabilisation Phase, the Government will correspondingly taper down the support measures to the following: 

a. 10% Jobs Support Scheme support from 22 November to 19 December 2021 for F&B, retail, cinemas, museums, art galleries, historical sites, family entertainment, tourism, gyms and fitness studios, and performing arts and arts education. Please refer to Annex C for details.

b. 0.5 month rental waiver for the cooked food and market stallholders in centres managed by NEA or NEA-appointed operators.

c. COVID-19 Driver Relief Fund payout at $10 and $5 per vehicle per day in December 20212 and January 2022 respectively for taxi and private hire car drivers.

17. The total sum of the support measures is $90m. This will be funded from the higher-than-expected revenues collected to-date. There will be no further draw on Past Reserves.

Enhancing Protection by Accelerating our Booster Vaccination Programme 

18. Booster vaccination significantly increases protection against infection and severe disease, and prevents waning of vaccine protection. Today, based on an earlier recommendation from the Expert Committee on COVID-19 Vaccination (EC19V), we are administering boosters six months after the second dose for those aged 30 to 59, and five months after the second dose for those aged 60 and above.  The EC19V has studied further international and local data. It is evident that waning of antibodies can clearly occur by around six months after the second dose and occur earlier for older groups. It now recommends that we standardise the interval rate to five months for all age groups eligible for boosters, as this would be an appropriate interval to pre-empt waning of antibodies for all.  

19. Therefore, eligible persons will now be able to receive their booster doses starting from five months after the completion of their primary series (typically with two doses of the mRNA vaccines), and SMS invitations will be sent to them before that. This will provide individuals more flexibility in planning and getting their booster vaccination in a timely manner, before significant waning in protection occurs. We encourage everyone eligible for the booster vaccination to receive it when it is offered to them, so as to achieve high levels of protection. For those who are eligible based on the criteria to-date (aged 30 and above, frontline workers at higher risk of COVID-19 infection, etc.), but have not received their SMS invitations, they are also invited to walk in to any Moderna Vaccination Centre to receive their booster vaccination without a need to book an appointment.

Towards a COVID-19 Resilient Singapore

20. Even as we resume our transition towards living with COVID-19, we need to do so in a careful and controlled manner. We seek everyone’s cooperation to exercise social responsibility and cooperate with the SMMs which have been put in place. If you are offered a vaccination or booster dose, please also come forward and get vaccinated. These will ensure the current situation continues to remain stable, and allow us to progressively resume our social and economic activities.

[1] This refers to the party that has charge, management or control of the room or place where the event takes place.

[2] This latest total payout of $10 per vehicle per day in December 2021 supersedes the $5 per vehicle per day payout announced previously.