Singapore has been making good progress with regards to its Covid-19 recovery plan. The island nation is now in its second phase of reopening, allowing both locals and foreigners greater freedom and flexibility in terms of business and leisure.
However, according to Education Minister Lawrence Wong, the nation will only be going ahead with phase 3 of its reopening after three key conditions are met.
“There may be a chance we can do it before the end of the year. If not, we will roll over to January or sometime early next year. It’s more important that we do it right than we rush into phase three and end up with bad consequences down the road,” he said.
Following an eight-week circuit breaker lockdown earlier this year, many Singaporeans have been eagerly awaiting a further easing of lockdown restrictions as it has been close to five months since the country has began phase two of its progressive reopening. While a pandemic task force has speculated that the current conditions would allow for phase 3 to begin before the end of the year, Wong, who co-chairs the task force, said that such would only be possible through mutual understanding and cooperation.
“We must be prepared to expect the number of community cases to go up perhaps to the low teens, maybe even to the 20s or upwards to the 30s. We have to be mentally prepared for that and be ready to ensure that even if the local cases in the community were to rise, they do not form large clusters that are out of control,” he said as he elaborated on the three key conditions that need to the fulfilled.
The first of these conditions is that the TraceTogether programme must have a participation rate of 70 percent, which it is currently at around 50 percent. This programme is crucial to Singapore’s efforts in contact tracing.
Secondly, there must be an overall sense of compliance with safety management measures. The authorities will assess this condition through safe distancing ambassadors, who will continue to observe the situation on the ground at such places as restaurants and parks, said Wong.
Finally, Singapore’s testing capabilities must be sufficient, an aspect in which the country is “proceeding well”.
“We do have the testing capabilities in place, so we just need the contact tracing – TraceTogether – to be up. We need compliance with safe management measures to also be up there, and then with all three indicators showing the green light, we would be in a position to enter phase three. Exactly when that happens, we keep an open mind, we will watch over it very carefully,” said Wong.