Singapore is slowing the pace of reopening as local cases stabilize


A man wearing a protective face mask walks past an indoor waterfall at Jewel Changi Airport in Singapore.

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SINGAPORE – The Singapore government said Friday it would further relax Covid-related restrictions next week, albeit at a slower pace than previously announced, as local infections have not decreased significantly.

The government started easing some measures this week, including increasing restrictions on social gatherings and event attendees.

It said that as of Monday, “higher risk activities” such as eating in and indoor sports and exercise may be resumed in groups of two people – instead of the five people previously announced.

We remain concerned, especially if we do not have to reach a high level of vaccination yet,

Gan Kim Yong

Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry

Barring another super-spreader event or large cluster of infections, the government will allow these activities for groups of up to five people from mid-July.

“The number of cases in the community has stabilized somewhat, but it is not falling significantly and we see several unrelated cases every day,” said Gan Kim Yong, Singapore’s Minister of Commerce and Industry, co-chair of the Covid- Country Task Force.

“That’s why we remain concerned, especially if we don’t have to reach a high level of vaccination yet,” Gan told reporters at a briefing.

Singapore needs to be cautious in resuming activities that are viewed as more risky due to the more transmissible variant of the Delta, first discovered in India, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said at the same meeting.

Ong, who is also co-chair of the Covid task force, said a gradual reopening will help “buy time to get more people vaccinated, so it is imperative now to step up vaccinations”.

Singapore has one of the fastest vaccinations in the Asia-Pacific region, but it is lagging behind many western countries. Around 2.7 million people – or about 49% of the population – had at least the first dose of the Covid vaccine by Tuesday, Ong said. Around 35% of the population are fully vaccinated, he added.

The country had largely controlled the spread of Covid until locally transmitted cases flared up in late April. Many of the recent cases have been caused by the Delta variant. The surge in cases forced the government to tighten social distancing measures twice last month.

The community’s daily reported cases dropped to single digits for most of the past week, but have remained above 10 cases a day since Sunday as a large cluster of infections emerged around a damp market in southern Singapore.

In total, the Southeast Asian country has reported 34 deaths and more than 62,300 confirmed cases since early 2020 as of Thursday, data from the Ministry of Health showed.