1. Good afternoon. The new Omicron variant has now been detected in more than 60 countries around the world. We expect it to continue to spread to many other countries over time, and we will continue to monitor the global situation closely.
2. Locally, we have also detected 16 Omicron cases to date – 14 are imported cases, while 2 are local cases. All the local cases were working at the airport.
· While we have not detected any transmission within the community yet, it is only a matter of time before this happens, given the experience of other countries.
· This may then lead to another surge in cases, because of the highly infectious nature of the Omicron variant. We must therefore prepare ourselves for such a scenario.
3. Vaccination remains our main defense against COVID-19, including the Omicron variant.
· We are stepping up our booster programme to ensure that our population continues to be protected against severe outcomes. I would like to encourage those who are eligible to get your booster shot as soon as possible.
· We are also rolling out the vaccination programme to younger children aged 5 to 11 years.
· I urge those who are still not vaccinated yet, especially those aged 60 and above, not to wait any longer.
4. Vaccination-differentiated SMMs (VDS) plays an important part in protecting those who are unvaccinated from severe illness.
· We have expanded VDS to more settings and activities from 1 December, including all libraries under the National Library Board, and selected activities in the community clubs.
· From 1 February, we will further expand VDS to other settings and activities.
5. Individuals who are medically ineligible for vaccination will continue to be exempted from VDS.
6. We had earlier rolled out “VDS+Test” pilots in sports settings, selected mass sporting events, as well as selected MICE event. These pilots have been successful, and we will continue to expand them where feasible.
7. To date, work-from-home has been the default arrangement.
· We recognise that this arrangement is not ideal and not sustainable in the long run, as face-to-face interaction is important for team dynamics as well as other operational considerations.
· With the implementation of Workplace Vaccination Measures, we are in a better position to ease up on the work-from-home arrangement. Therefore, from 1 January next year, we will allow up to 50% of those who can work from home to return to the workplace.
· We will also raise the cap on participants for work-related events, as long as all of them remain masked, are seated at a safe distance from one another, and meet the VDS requirements.
· However, social gatherings at the workplace will continue to be disallowed to minimise mingling and reduce infection risks.
8. Two weeks’ ago, Singapore and Malaysia launched the VTL (Land).
· This allowed us to restore connectivity across our countries, so that Singaporeans and Malaysians on both sides of the border could reunite with their families.
· To allow more people the opportunity to reunite with their families and see their loved ones, from 20 December, Singapore Citizens will be able to enter Malaysia, and Malaysia Citizens can enter Singapore, on the VTL (Land) arrangement, even if they are not PRs or long term pass holders of the destination country.
· All travellers entering Singapore will have to abide by the prevailing test protocols and safe management measures, which include the post-arrival 7-day COVID-19 ART regime.
· We will continue to monitor the demand for the VTL (Land), and adjust and review the capacity accordingly, taking into account the public health situation in both countries.
9. I want to thank everyone for your support and cooperation. We will continue to keep a close watch on the situation, to prepare ourselves for a potential increase in Omicron cases within the community. As we approach the holiday season, I would like to remind everyone to remain vigilant, continue to exercise social responsibility, obey the SMM rules, and test yourselves whenever necessary. Let us continue to work together towards COVID-resilience in Singapore. Thank you.