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Opening Remarks by Minister Gan Kim Yong at the MTF Press Conference on 30 Nov 2021

Opening Remarks by Minister Gan Kim Yong at the MTF Press Conference on 30 Nov 2021

1. Good afternoon. It has been over a week since we returned to the Transition Phase. While the daily cases and weekly infection ratio have remained stable, we need to remain vigilant.


2. A new variant of concern, the Omicron variant, has been detected in several countries now. Very little is known yet about this variant with regard to its transmissibility, severity, and how effective vaccines are against it.  We are closely monitoring the situation.  Scientists around the world are working on it, and we will know more in a few weeks’ time.


3. While we have not detected this new variant among local cases yet, it is only a matter of time before it will arrive in Singapore. Therefore, we are making several pre-emptive moves to buy ourselves some time while we find out more about the variant. First, we will step up border measures to reduce importation risk.


· Over the past few days, we announced travel restrictions for affected countries in southern Africa. We also deferred the launch of Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTLs) with countries that serve as travel hubs for the affected countries. We will continue to adjust our border measures based on our risk assessment.


4. Second, we will enhance testing protocols to detect Omicron cases.   We will step up testing requirements for visitor arrivals.  In addition, we will revert to PCR Rostered Routine Testing (RRT) for border frontline workers, who may come into contact with travellers from affected countries/ regions. This will start from 2 December.


5. Third, we will adopt differentiated and stricter public health procedures for confirmed or suspected Omicron cases. Such cases will be conveyed to the National Centre for Infectious Diseases. We will also step up contact tracing to identify their close contacts, so as to ringfence any possible further transmission.


6. We will continue to track developments on the Omicron variant closely.


· This set of measures that we have announced today will help us to quickly detect and contain cases infected with the new variant, and help to reduce the risks of importation and further transmission.


· As more data becomes available in the coming weeks, we must be prepared to further adjust our measures, if necessary, to ensure that the situation remains under control, before we continue on our reopening journey.


7. We have made a lot of progress in dealing with COVID-19 over the past two years, including beefing up our healthcare capacity and putting in place the necessary healthcare protocols. I would like to seek your support and understanding as we adapt our measures to keep everyone safe. We will share more information with you as and when we know more about this new variant.  Meanwhile, vaccination and booster shots remain our key defense against COVID-19.  As we near the holiday season, I would like to urge everyone to remain vigilant, exercise social responsibility, observe the safe management rules, and test yourselves regularly. Let us continue to work together towards COVID-resilience. Thank you.

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