With 85 per cent of its population fully inoculated, Singapore is trying to tread a path of reopening to rebuild its status as an international hub while keeping a tight lid of infections that may overwhelm its health care system.
Passenger traffic at Changi Airport, Asia’s second-busiest for international flights last year, was just 2 per cent of pre-pandemic levels in the first nine months of the year.
While Singapore Airlines has been losing money because of the pandemic, the city state’s quarantine-free “Vaccinated Travel Lanes” programme is already benefiting its flag carrier. The airline carried 165,000 passengers in October, up from 136,000 a month earlier.
Other reopening steps include allowing more migrant workers who have been confined to their dormitories to rejoin the community from 3,000 vaccinated workers per week to 3,000 per day.
Singapore is also piloting the resumption of business events as well as sports and live performances with vaccinations and testing. This begins with the Milken Institute Asia Summit and Bloomberg New Economy Forum this week, followed by a two-day charity concert later this month.
Officials say they are working toward a phased resumption of international events, such as the Formula One night racing event that drew droves of international visitors before the pandemic. Singapore is in talks with F1 management and the Singapore Grand Prix on a contract for a renewed term.
Authorities said they were looking to carry out access control and checking systems at hawker centres and coffee shops to differentiate between patrons who have been double jabbed and those who are not inoculated. Once the systems are in place, up to five people living in the same residence can dine at those places. Currently, this rule only applies to restaurants.
Face shield use drops in the Philippines as cases fall
President Rodrigo Duterte said face shields will no longer be required in many areas of the Philippines, easing the mandate more than a year after becoming one of the few countries in the world to require the plastic barriers against Covid-19.
Face shields will only be mandatory in areas where there is a strict lockdown, according to a memorandum from Duterte’s office. Wearing them has been “cumbersome”, Duterte said at a briefing aired late on Monday.
The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend the use of face shields against Covid-19 because their “effectiveness is unknown at this time”, while the World Health Organization said the equipment can be used for eye protection during outbreaks.
In the Philippines, a Senate probe has looked into allegations that face shields bought by the government were overpriced a claim that officials have denied.
Duterte, on Monday night, also approved the health department’s recommendation for health workers to receive vaccine boosters and called on local governments to again ban children from shopping centres after a report that a two-year-old boy tested positive for Covid-19 days after visiting one. Daily infections have eased to less than 2,000 in the past days.
In the same briefing, Duterte said the Philippine economy “can soon return to its pre-pandemic performance” after gaining traction last quarter on strong household consumption.