Singapore announced plans to begin Phase 3 of virus curbs on December 28, further relaxing coronavirus restrictions as plans to launch a quarantine-free, one-way travel corridor with Taiwan are underway.
This move comes as Singapore becomes the first Asian country to approve the use of the Pfizer- BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines. Shipments are expected to be delivered by the end of the month.
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• In Monday’s national address, Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong announced that other vaccines will be rolled out within the country in upcoming months. It is forecasted that Singapore will have sufficient doses for its population by the third quarter of 2021.
• Lee also revealed that a budget of SGD 1 billion (USD 750 million) has been set aside for vaccine procurements. Moderna and Sinovac’s vaccines are among some of the promising candidates that the country has signed purchase agreements with.
The bigger picture: While Singapore has effectively managed to rein in community infections for the most part, its economy has suffered as a result of the pandemic. In order for the country to bounce back to pre-COVID levels, the easing of restrictions on businesses and travel remains vital.
• Restrictions of public gatherings will now be lifted from five to eight. Capacity limits on shopping malls, places of worship, and attractions will also be relaxed.
• However, Lee also cautioned the public against letting their guard down thinking the pandemic has come to an end. He further added that the move from Phase 2 to Phase 3 of virus curbs was a “calibrated and careful” move that the government will carry out in a controlled manner.
Following the postponement of the highly-anticipated travel bubble with Hong Kong, Singapore will now exempt inbound travellers from Taiwan effective as of December 18.
• To be eligible for the exemption, visitors must have stayed in Taiwan for 14 consecutive days prior to arriving in Singapore. They must also take direct flights to the country and undergo a PCR test upon entry.
• Transport minister, Ong Ye Kung justified the travel corridor with Taiwan, mentioning that the country has strong control measures in place and have consistently reported close to zero infection rates, hence the risk of importation is minimal.
Looking ahead: Other countries have also announced upcoming corridor agreements and travel arrangements.
• Thailand has declared that the country is now open to people from all countries under their new “special tourist visa”. Upon undergoing a PCR test and finishing the compulsory 14-day quarantine process, travellers will be allowed to stay back in Thailand for a maximum of 90 days.
• New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Arden also revealed that the Trans-Tasman two-way quarantine bubble with Australia is set to be in motion by the end of March.