Singapore—Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong gave the country an update regarding the Covid-19 pandemic on Monday afternoon (Dev 14) with important and welcome news for Singapore’s reopening as well as the impending availability of vaccines.

“We’ll end the year with some good news,” he said, announcing that Singapore will enter Phase 3 of reopening in two weeks, starting from Dec 28.

He acknowledged that 2020 has been a year of uncertainty, as the pandemic has caused people anxiety and trepidation. But much has changed from when the country suffered the worst of the pandemic, in March and April when infections were as high as 1,000 a day. PM Lee noted that in contrast, today, there are days with zero local infections.

The Prime Minister credited the resilience of Singaporeans in taking restrictive measures in stride, and added that while the economy has taken a big hit, “it did not crash.”

And today, the country’s capacity to fight the pandemic has greatly improved, with better testing facilities and contact tracing methods.

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As for Phase 3, PM Lee said that the multi-ministry task force assigned to tackle the issues stemming from the pandemic would make an announcement concerning the details of this phase of the reopening after the end of his broadcast.

He added, however, that more people would be allowed to meet together, as people will be allowed to gather in groups of eight, in time for family gatherings during this festive season.

However, he warned that the battle is not yet over and that the pandemic is still raging in other parts of the globe, with some countries seeing their second, or even third waves of infection surges.

PM Lee also said that he does not know how long Singapore will remain under Phase 3, which could last for a year or longer, depending on the availability of vaccines.

First vaccines available in Singapore by month’s end

The Prime Minister then delivered the second good news of his announcement, that the Health Sciences Authority has approved the Pfizer vaccine for pandemic use and that the first shipment of vaccines will be available by the end of the month.

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He said that the Government prioritised studying the different vaccine candidates early, and even made downpayments to ensure Singapore would have choices from a “diversified portfolio” of vaccine options, and not be “the last in the queue.”

PM Lee added that Singapore will have enough vaccines for everyone by the third quarter of 2021.

The Government has also accepted the recommendations for a vaccine strategy, starting with frontliners and vulnerable segments of society, including elders. PM Lee added that he, along with the members of the cabinet who are seniors, would get vaccinated early as an example for others.

The vaccines, he added, will be free for Singaporeans and long-term residents, but will not be mandatory.

However, he encouraged everyone to get vaccinated. —/TISG