Singapore drawing up road map to live with COVID-19, ministers say

People wearing face masks cross a road amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Singapore
People wearing face masks cross a road amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Singapore May 14, 2021. REUTERS/Caroline Chia

SINGAPORE, June 24 (Reuters) - Singapore is drawing up a road map on how to live more normally with COVID-19 on expectations that the virus will become endemic like influenza and as vaccination rates pick up, said ministers leading the country's virus-fighting task force.

The city-state has vaccinated about half its 5.7 million population with least one dose of vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech (PFE.N), (22UAy.DE) and Moderna (MRNA.O).

While Singapore's vaccination pace is relatively high, the country has been slower at resuming social activities and travel, compared with other places with similar inoculation rates.

"It has been 18 months since the pandemic started, and our people are battle-weary. All are asking: When and how will the pandemic end?" ministers Gan Kim Yong, Lawrence Wong and Ong Ye Kung said in an opinion piece in The Straits Times newspaper on Thursday.

Singapore has strict rules governing social gatherings, mask-wearing, contact-tracing and travel.

The ministers of trade, finance and health hoped to have at least two-thirds of the population fully vaccinated with two doses around Singapore's National Day on Aug. 9. "We are working to bring forward the delivery of vaccines and to speed up the process," they said.

As the country achieves vaccination milestones, in time, instead of monitoring daily infection numbers, authorities will focus on the outcomes such as how many fall very sick. Those infected will be allowed to recover at home, so there will be less concern about the healthcare system being stressed.

Testing will be less of a tool for ring-fencing and quarantining people, but will be used more to ensure that events, social activities and overseas trips can take place safely.

The ministers said people will be able to travel again at least to countries that have also controlled the virus, with testing and vaccinations removing the need for quarantines.

Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan in Singapore Editing by Ed Davies

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