SINGAPORE - New measures were announced on Friday (Jan 21) by the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19 to help Singapore prepare to deal with the new Omicron wave.
The task force also stressed that existing safe management measures, such as the maximum number of visitors to a household being capped at five, will continue to be enforced during the upcoming Chinese New Year period.
It also reminded businesses to ensure robust business continuity plans, such as split team arrangements, and to adhere strictly to workplace safe management measures to minimise transmissions.
1. In-person visits to hospital wards and residential care homes suspended
Visits to all hospital wards and residential care homes will be stopped for a period of four weeks, from Jan 24 to Feb 20.
This is to better protect patients and healthcare workers, with the wave of Omicron infections, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said.
During this period, hospitals and care homes have the discretion to allow visits for exceptional cases, such as if the patient or resident is critically ill.
Other patient groups, including paediatric patients, birthing or post-partum mothers and patients requiring additional care support from caregivers, might be allowed visitors on a case-by-case basis.
These groups are allowed one pre-designated visitor with one visit per day.
Hospitals and homes will continue to support other methods of communication such as video calls, MOH said.
2. Maximum isolation period shortened to seven days for some
The maximum isolation period for fully vaccinated individuals and children below the age of 12 will be shortened from 10 days to seven days, given Omicron's shorter infectious period, MOH said.
This will apply for those under Protocols 1 and 2.
Those under Protocol 1 are assessed by doctors as high risk or with significant symptoms, while those under Protocol 2 are lower-risk individuals with mild symptoms and who can be diagnosed by an antigen rapid test (ART).
With immediate effect, MOH will also expand the age bracket suitable for Protocol 2 to include children aged five to 11, regardless of their vaccination status.
"We urge those with non-emergency conditions, including children, to avoid seeking treatment at hospitals and to consult their primary care doctor instead," MOH said.
Unvaccinated individuals aged 12 and above will continue to have a maximum isolation period of 14 days under both protocols.
3. Booster shots extended to those 12 to 17 years old
Those aged 12 to 17 years old are now also recommended to receive a booster dose of an mRNA vaccine.
From early February, MOH will progressively invite individuals, starting with those aged 16 and 17, to receive their booster dose, followed by those aged 12 to 15.
Those age 12 to 17 will need the consent of a parent or guardian to book an appointment. They can receive their booster atany vaccination centre offering the PfizerBioNTech/Comirnaty vaccine.
Those aged 13 and above are not required to have a parent or guardian to accompany them on the day of vaccination.
But those aged 12 and students in Special Education schools will need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Those who are medically ineligible for the PfizerBioNTech/Comirnaty vaccine will be offered a Sinovac-CoronaVac booster dose.
This programme will also be extended to children aged five to 11 who are medically ineligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech/ Comirnaty vaccine for their primary vaccination series.
4. Those aged 12 and above need boosters to maintain vaccinated status
Young people aged 12 to 17 will also need booster shots to maintain their fully vaccinated status from March 14.
From that date, they will be considered as fully vaccinated for only 270 days after their last primary series dose, and will require a booster dose to maintain their vaccinated status thereafter.
It was previously announced that from Feb 14, persons aged 18 and above will be considered as fully vaccinated for only 270 days after the last dose in their primary vaccination series.
Those who have recovered from Covid-19 and have completed their primary series vaccination do not require an additional booster dose at this point in time. But it is safe for such persons to receive a booster dose from five months after their last dose.
5. Calibrated testing regime for VTL travellers
Vaccinated travel lane (VTL) travellers entering Singapore after 11.59pm on Jan 23 by both land and air checkpoints will only be required to do unsupervised self-administered ARTs from day two to day seven of their arrivals if they need to leave their place of residence or accommodation.
Those who arrive before this time must still continue with the existing testing regime, including supervised ART on days three and seven of arrival.
Those who test positive on their ARTs no longer need to undergo a confirmatory PCR test, but should just recover under Protocol 2, if they are not potentially at-risk patients.
In addition, travellers who arrive after 11.59pm on Jan 23 and who are fully vaccinated and recovered from Covid-19 within the last 90 days will be exempted from all testing and stay-home notice requirements if they can provide documentary proof.
There will continue to be a 50 per cent limit on VTL flight and bus tickets for entry into Singapore for now, MOH said.
"We will continue to monitor the global Covid-19 situation and adjust our bordermeasures in tandem with our road map to becoming a Covid resilient nation," it added.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.