Nation tightens border measures


Safety first: Travellers entering Singapore will now face stricter rules. — AFP

The relaxation of social measures will be paused, and travellers entering Singapore will face stricter rules from 11.59pm tomorrow, as the country acts to buy time amid the spread of the new Omicron Covid-19 variant around the world.

The moves come as Singapore works to assess the implications of the new Covid-19 variant that has already spread to at least 16 countries, after the variant was identified in South Africa last week.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) said yesterday that no cases of Omicron have been detected locally, adding that the pre-emptive measures will help to reduce the risk of importing the virus.

Commenting on the moves during a press conference held by the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said: “This is a prudent thing to do for now when we are faced with a major uncertainty.”

Singapore has just emerged from a stabilisation phase and has been relaxing social measures, such as allowing more people to dine together in restaurants and hawker centres and also increasing group limits for gatherings.

While the current measures will not be dialled back for now, the task force handling Covid-19 said it will hold off on further relaxation.

MOH also said that anyone in Singapore confirmed or suspected to be infected with the Omicron variant will not be allowed to undergo home recovery, and will have to be taken to the National Centre for Infectious Diseases for isolation.

The ministry will conduct full contact tracing for these cases to identify their close contacts, place them on a 10-day quarantine at government quarantine facilities, and conduct PCR testing at the start and end of their quarantine.

“We are introducing a set of measures that serves as a strong yet reasonable response to the new variant to protect our local community,” said MOH.

“We will continue to monitor and evaluate data on the Omicron variant as it emerges and adjust our border and domestic measures accordingly.”

MOH also announced the tightening of border measures that will take effect from 11.59pm tomorrow.

First, air travellers arriving on the quarantine-free Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme will have to undergo supervised, self-administered antigen rapid tests (ARTs) at a Quick Test Centre on day three and day seven of their arrival.

Currently, these travellers are allowed to enter without having to undergo quarantine under the scheme, and have to take a Covid-19 swab test only prior to their departure for Singapore, and after arrival here.

Second, all air travellers entering, transferring or transiting through Singapore must have tested negative in a pre-departure test within two days of leaving for Singapore.

Third, all travellers must take a Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test on arrival.

At the press conference yesterday, Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong, who co-chairs the Covid-19 multi-ministry task force, said: “Very little is known yet about this variant with regard to its transmissibility and severity, and how effective vaccines are against it.

“We are closely monitoring the situation, and scientists around the world are working on it.” — The Straits Times/ANN

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