1. Good afternoon everyone. A few days’ ago, we announced that we would extend the Stabilisation Phase to 21 November.
2. I know many are disappointed, but we do need to protect our healthcare workers who have been working very hard for close to two years now to take care of our loved ones. Let us give them some relief by taking a bit more time in our journey towards COVID resilience so that our healthcare capacity will continue to be available for those who need it.
3. I would like to reassure everyone that we remain committed to living with COVID-19. We will continue to monitor the situation over the next few weeks to see if the situation improves or remains stable, and assess whether there is scope to further ease some of the Safe Management Measures (SMMs).
4. In the meantime, we will use this extension to build a stronger foundation that will enable us to safely resume economic and social activities in time to come.
5. First, we adjust our healthcare protocols, particularly for the Home Recovery Programme (HRP).
• Today, the HRP is already the default option for those aged 5 to 49 years old, and vaccinated individuals aged 50 to 79.
• The HRP has made good progress, and more of us are now familiar and comfortable with it. Our processes and support system for the HRP are also more established and stabilised.
• Therefore, we will now extend the HRP to pregnant COVID-19 cases who are fully vaccinated, below 35 years old and less than 26 weeks pregnant. This will allow more to recover at home.
6. Second, we will further expand our vaccination programme so that more of our population is protected from severe illness.
• We will be including Sinovac in our National Vaccination Programme (NVP). HSA and the Expert Committee on COVID-19 Vaccination (EC19V) will issue a statement shortly.
• For those who are yet to be vaccinated, you can now choose to be vaccinated with Sinovac under the National Vaccinnation Programme (NVP).
• We have also made good progress on booster shots. To date, more than 650,000 individuals have received their booster shot. For those who are eligible, please come forward to receive your booster shot so that you can continue to enjoy high levels of protection against severe disease.
• Minister Ong and DMS will share more details on the vaccination programme later.
7. For individuals who are medically ineligible for the NVP, we will give special concession for them to enter premises or participate in activities where vaccine-differentiated SMMs (VDS) are required, such as shopping malls, attractions, hawker centres and coffee shops, starting from 1 November 2021.
• For those who are medically ineligible for mRNA vaccines but are eligible for Sinovac, they will need to be vaccinated with Sinovac to be considered fully vaccinated. But we will give them a grace period, up till 31 Dec 2021, to receive their Sinovac vaccine.
8. Third, we will adjust measures at workplaces and allow some activities for seniors to resume, with measures in place to keep everyone safe.
• Although work-from-home (WFH) remains the default, we recognise that some workers will need to return to the workplace from time to time.
• By now, 96% of our workforce has been fully vaccinated.
• However, there remains around 113,000 unvaccinated employees, and over 10% of them are seniors.
• To continue to keep our workforce safe, starting from 1 January 2022, only workers who are fully vaccinated, have recovered from COVID-19, or are medically ineligible under the NVP, can return to the workplace.
• Unvaccinated workers will need to be tested negative for COVID-19 if they need to return to the workplace. We would like to seek the assistance of employers in encouraging their unvaccinated employees to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
9. We will also resume selected wellness activities for seniors.
• We understand many seniors have been responsible and staying home for their own safety. However, keeping active also helps our seniors to stay physically and mentally well. Therefore, we will carefully resume selected organised wellness and social activities for seniors who are fully vaccinated. These may include physical exercises like qigong, outings and learning journeys. More details will be announced at a later stage.
10. I hope for your understanding, patience and support as we strengthen the foundation that will help us to live with COVID-19. Let us all do our part by keeping to the SMMs and exercising social responsibility, so as to relieve the strain on our healthcare system and our healthcare workers. I would also like to encourage everyone to make testing a way of life. I am confident that if we work together and press on in this journey ahead, we will be able to get through this wave. Thank you.