Singapore pledged it would not be left behind as developed economies reopen, marking an intention to shift away from the strict containment approach that’s helped some Asian places eliminate the virus, but which leaves them increasingly isolated.
The country wouldn’t be stuck in a Covid-19 malaise, and tourists will be welcomed, people can go for sports events, even ditch wearing a mask outdoors, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told the nation in an address. As part of its strategy to reopen, school kids would be inoculated next month, and every adult who wants a shot would have one by early August.
“In this new normal, the countries which are united, disciplined and put in place sensible safeguards, will be able to re-open their economies, re-connect to the rest of the world, grow and prosper,” Lee said. “Singapore will be among these countries.”
The speech comes as Singapore faces growing pressure to chart a path to normalisation and revive its trade-reliant economy. It’s one of a handful of Covid havens that have succeeded in limiting local transmission, though that success risks becoming a straightjacket as officials impose aggressive restrictions to try to stamp out every small flareup. These places, which include Hong Kong, mainland China, New Zealand and Australia risk being left behind as other economies accept that Covid-19 is endemic and move on.
Lee said that the city-state would eventually become more tolerant to infections and accept that the coronavirus is here to stay.
“In this new normal, we will have to learn to carry on with our lives even with the virus in our midst,” he said.
“As long as our population is mostly vaccinated, we should be able to trace, isolate, and treat the cases that pop up, and prevent a severe and disastrous outbreak.”
After June 13, Singapore is likely to ease restrictions that have been put in place for four weeks, if the recent outbreak driven by more contagious variants of the virus is seen to be coming under control.
Still, it’s unlikely that all the recent measures will be removed as the easing will be done in a controlled manner, officials said at a briefing following Lee’s speech.
The country’s rise in cases, including some from a more contagious variant of the virus first identified in India, prompted authorities to reimpose some lockdown-like
conditions for a month from May 16.
The measures include a ban on dining-in, a return to work-from-home and limiting outdoor group sizes to a maximum of just two. Due to the spike, Singapore this month fell one place from its top notch in Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking.