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No easing of restrictions for now amid spike in COVID-19 cases: Lawrence Wong

No easing of restrictions for now amid spike in COVID-19 cases: Lawrence Wong

COVID-19 multi-ministry task force co-chair Lawrence Wong speaking at a press conference on Sep 3, 2021. (Photo: Ministry of Communications and Information)

SINGAPORE: There will be no easing of COVID-19 restrictions for now as authorities monitor the situation amid a spike in local COVID-19 cases, COVID-19 multi-ministry task force co-chair Lawrence Wong said on Friday (Sep 3).

"We do not intend to make any new opening moves at this juncture, because there is a time lag between the onset of infections to serious illness, and so we want to take some time to monitor the situation," he said.

"Also, we have recently announced a whole series of pilots, be it vaccinated travel or allowing our workers in the dormitories to be out in the community. So we want to allow these pilots to continue over the next few days and weeks before we contemplate further moves."

His comments came as Singapore reported 216 locally transmitted cases on Friday, as large clusters emerged in bus interchanges and Bugis Junction.

Ministry of Health director of medical services Kenneth Mak said on Friday that the rise in cases is "not unexpected" as Singapore resumes more activities.

Despite the rise, Associate Professor Mak said there has not been a significant surge in the number of cases that require intensive care, adding that there have been no new admissions to the intensive care unit since Aug 21.

Mr Wong said there is no need to tighten restrictions as Singapore already has a high level of vaccine coverage and is now starting to live with the COVID-19 pandemic.

"In the past, when we have a situation of such high daily cases, we would have looked to measures like a heightened alert, or even a circuit breaker to control the infection," Mr Wong said.

"But we are in a new phase, where we have a high level of vaccine coverage to protect Singaporeans, and we are now moving into a phase of living with COVID and becoming COVID-resilient.

"And so we assess that there is no need to impose tightened restrictions. In fact, we would only revert to such a tightened posture as a last resort to prevent our hospital system from being overwhelmed."

Mr Wong said authorities will continue with aggressive testing and contact tracing to slow down transmission and avoid uncontrollable surges in cases that could easily overwhelm the hospital system.

The Government is also studying whether to add more quick test centres islandwide to allow people to get tested more easily, he said. Twenty of such centres have already been set up across Singapore.

Nevertheless, Mr Wong said safe management measures like safe distancing continue to be "very helpful" in slowing down virus transmission.

"Our enforcement officers continue to be on the ground. They are inspecting different establishments, and they will enforce the rules fairly and firmly," he said.

"If there are minor offences, they may issue a warning, they may issue a fine. But if there is a major breach, for example, multiple breaches of the one-metre rule at any particular establishment, or they inspect and there are attempts to even block the enforcement officer from doing their jobs, then such a major offence will result in immediate closure of the establishment."

Beyond relying on just enforcement, Mr Wong called on the public to exercise social responsibility and comply with the measures.

"So with regular testing and effective safe management measures, we can keep things under control and continue on this journey of reopening safely," he added.

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Source: CNA/hz(gr)