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The Straits Times
Aug 24, 2022
Mask-wearing indoors will no longer be a legal requirement except in healthcare facilities and on public transport.
This was among changes to safe management measures the multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19 announced on Wednesday (Aug 24).
Here's what you need to know about the changes:
Mask-wearing indoors will no longer be legally required from Aug 29 except in places where essential services are carried out in enclosed and crowded areas, and which are frequently used by vulnerable people.
These include healthcare facilities, residential care homes (including welfare and sheltered homes for the aged, as well as adult disability homes) and ambulances.
They also cover the indoor premises of hospitals and polyclinics, including retail, food and beverages (F&B) outlets, common areas and other facilities within the buildings.
Masks are also required in private primary care and dental facilities, specialist clinics, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) clinics and renal dialysis centres.
Other settings where mask-wearing is needed include clinical and radiological laboratories, day hospices, residential care homes, Covid-19 care facilities, testing centres and vaccination centres, and emergency ambulances and medical transport vehicles.
Masks also need to be worn on public transport, including trains, public buses and indoor public transport facilities, such as boarding areas within bus interchanges and MRT platforms.
But mask-wearing on private transport modes, as well as school buses, private bus services and taxis, will be optional.
Those working as food handlers and in certain settings will continue to wear masks under sectoral requirements.
The Singapore Food Agency has made it a requirement since April 2020 for all food handlers to wear masks or spit guards.
This applies to all staff engaged in selling and preparing food and drinks at all retail food establishments.
They include hawker centres, coffee shops, restaurants, supermarkets, trade fairs and non-retail food establishments such as food processing establishments and slaughterhouses.
People should also still wear masks in crowded places or when interacting with vulnerable people, the task force said.
In particular, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said experts have advised that the elderly and immunocompromised should continue to wear masks in crowded indoor settings to reduce their risk of catching any respiratory infections.
Mask-wearing in outdoor settings has not been legally required since March 29.
In pre-schools, safe management measures will also be eased with mask-wearing made optional.
Restrictions on pre-school visitors will be lifted from Aug 29, including those on external guests during celebrations like birthdays, the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) said in a circular to operators.
Pre-schools will also no longer be required to monitor the travel plans of staff and children.
For pre-schools where staff shower or bathe children, the ECDA said they can resume the practice but added that pre-schools should communicate their policies clearly to parents.
MOH had earlier announced the extension of visitor safe management measures at all hospital wards and residential care homes until Aug 31.
But from Sept 1, two visitors will be allowed per patient at the bedside each time in hospitals.
Meanwhile, two visitors will be allowed per resident per visit at homes.
Those visiting hospitals have to abide by the visiting hours, while those visiting homes have their visit capped at one hour.
They are still encouraged to test themselves before visiting and they must wear masks.
Those aged 60 years and older are advised to receive a second messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) Covid-19 booster from five months after their first booster.
MOH had previously recommended this only for those aged 80 years and older, and offered it to those aged 50 to 79 years.
"The first booster confers good protection against hospitalisation and severe Covid-19 in persons aged 60 to 79 years, and has helped us weather through the current wave," the ministry said.
"However, as it has been over a year since we administered the first booster to this age group, we expect the protection to gradually wane.
"We need to keep our vaccinations up to date, to prepare for possible future infection waves."
The second booster will continue to be offered to all those aged 50 to 59.
It is now recommended that children aged five to 11 years old receive one booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty vaccine, from five months after the second dose of their primary vaccination series.
MOH said it is preparing to start giving booster shots to such children in the fourth quarter of this year, likely when examinations in primary schools are nearing the end or are over.
Five dedicated vaccination centres will be set up to administer booster doses for these children. More details will be announced nearer the date.
The Health Sciences Authority has also just extended the authorisation of Moderna's Spikevax Covid-19 vaccine to children, including very young children aged six months up to five years old.
A decision on the recommendation for vaccination of this age group is expected soon, MOH said.
If approved, the ministry will time it together with the booster exercise for children aged five to 11, and administer them at the same centres for the convenience of parents.
All non-fully vaccinated travellers entering Singapore from 11.59pm on Aug 28 will no longer be required to undergo a seven-day SHN upon arrival, nor be subject to an exit-SHN polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.
But they will continue to be required to test negative on a pre-departure test within two days before departing for Singapore.
Non-fully vaccinated short-term visitors will also continue to be required to purchase Covid-19 travel insurance to cover the duration of their stay in Singapore.
At the moment, non-fully vaccinated long-term pass holders and short-term visitors aged 13 and above are required to apply for approval to enter Singapore.
But this requirement will also be lifted from Aug 28, 11.59pm.
MOH said: "As long-term pass holders are expected to stay in Singapore for a longer period of time, they will continue to be required to meet all vaccination-differentiated safe management measure requirements after their arrival in Singapore."
Covid-19 vaccination will continue to be a condition for the approval of all new applications for long-term passes and work passes.
For renewal applications, vaccination will also continue to be required for the renewal of existing work passes for work-permit holders and S Pass holders from the construction, marine shipyard and process sectors or those residing in dormitories.
This is given that their work sites and dormitories are settings at higher risk of disease spread.
Other work pass renewals will no longer be subject to a vaccination requirement from Oct 1.