Singapore tracking Omicron, expect 'more bumps' to come: PM Lee
He says Republic may be forced to take steps back; VTLs for Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE deferred
Singapore is watching the new Omicron coronavirus variant closely and may be forced to roll back the easing of some safety measures to tackle Covid-19, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.
But PM Lee said he is confident the country will be able to live with the virus and held up how its people have made a lot of progress in dealing with the disease over the past two years.
Omicron, which was dubbed a variant of concern by the World Health Organisation last Friday, is a new and potentially more contagious Covid-19 strain. Singapore and other countries have in recent days restricted travel from southern Africa, where it was first detected.
The Government announced yesterday that in view of this new strain, those travelling from Malaysia to Singapore via the land Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL), which takes effect today, must take an antigen rapid test (ART) upon arrival.
It was previously announced that these travellers had to test negative only in a pre-departure polymerase chain reaction or professionally administered ART done within two days before departure for Singapore.
Singapore has not detected any cases of the Omicron variant to date, the Ministry of Health said last night.
But as a precautionary move to reduce the risk of the variant spreading here, Singapore will defer the start of the VTLs for Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - scheduled for next Monday - until further notice, in view of their proximity as transport nodes to affected countries in southern Africa, the ministry added.
In his first public comments on Omicron, PM Lee said at the People's Action Party (PAP) Convention yesterday that Singapore must be mentally prepared for "more bumps along the way" as it deals with an evolving virus.
"We are tracking this very closely. We are not sure yet, but we may well be forced to take a few steps back again, before we can take more steps forward," he said.
"But despite all this, I am confident that we will find our way to living with the virus and safely resume all the things we love to do.
"We are making all this effort because we want to get there safely, with as few casualties along the way."
Singapore has largely managed to keep its Covid-19 situation under control through safety measures that the Government tightens to respond to the spread of the virus.
PM Lee acknowledged that the fight has been tough on Singapore and its people.
He said: "It has been a long journey with many twists and turns. The virus has surprised us over and over again. Repeatedly, we have had to adapt our response, pick ourselves up and then press on."
The PAP Convention was one of the first few large gatherings allowed under eased measures.
PM Lee spoke from the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre to over 2,000 activists through a hybrid event format.
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