Singapore on new traffic lanes, Covid restrictions, living with Covid

People walk on a crosswalk along the Orchard Road shopping district in Singapore on September 7, 2021.

Roslan Rahman | AFP | Getty Images

SINGAPORE – Singapore said on Saturday it will open new traffic lanes for vaccinated visitors from 8 other countries.

It came as his Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong predicted that it would take between three and six months to arrive at a “new normal” of living with Covid.

Southeast Asian country to launch more vaccinated traffic lanes (VTLs) – with Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, UK and states United, announced the Ministry of Transport.

“The 8 countries are already open to travelers from Singapore. Thus, VTLs will re-establish non-quarantine travel in both directions between Singapore and themselves,” Transport Minister S Iswaran said on Saturday.

We must respect Covid-19, but we must not be paralyzed by fear.

Lee hsien loong

Prime Minister of Singapore

The initiative allows vaccinated people to travel without quarantine, but travelers will need to pass Covid-19 tests to ensure they are not infected with the virus before entering the country.

Applications will open on Tuesday and travelers from those qualifying countries will be able to enter Singapore from October 19, the minister said.

Singapore announced the initiative with South Korea on Friday. The city-state already entered into similar agreements with Germany and Brunei in September.

Living with covid

In a nationwide address on Saturday, Singaporean leader Lee explained when the “new normal” could occur.

“How will we know when we get to the new normal? This will be when we can relax the restrictions, just have some light [safe management measures] up, and cases remain stable – maybe hundreds a day, but not increasing, ”Lee said. “When our hospitals can resume their activities as usual, when we can resume our usual activities and see the crowds without worrying or feeling strange.”

He urged the nation not to be “crippled with fear” and said that “sooner or later each of us will encounter the virus – it means all old people will also encounter the virus.”

He said regions like Europe have reached this state, but “paid dearly” for it with many lives lost.

“It will take us at least three months, and maybe up to six months, to get to this new standard,” added Lee.

Tightening measures for the unvaccinated

Singapore will also tighten some Covid restrictions for the unvaccinated.

Those who are not vaccinated will no longer be allowed to enter 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 those vaccinated will now be subject to a two-person limit when entering malls, he said.

Unvaccinated people will also not be allowed to dine at cafes and food centers – outdoor food establishments across the country, where they were previously allowed to do so, limited to two people per table.

Singapore’s health ministry said the latest measures were aimed at protecting the most vulnerable, such as the unvaccinated and the elderly.

These restrictions will 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 reached over 80%. As of October 7, 83% of the population had completed two doses of a Covid vaccine.

But after easing restrictions, the number of cases has started to rise, hitting daily highs and hovering above 3,400 in the past few days.

Singapore authorities again tightened Covid measures last month in a bid to slow community transmissions and protect hospitals from overflows. They reduced the group size for social gatherings from five to two and made working from home the default, encouraging vulnerable populations such as the elderly to stay at home as much as possible.

As of Friday, the total number of infections stood at 120,454, with 142 deaths. However, 98.4% of those infected in the past 28 days have shown no symptoms or mild symptoms, according to the country’s health ministry.

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