Booze ban lifted, masks optional as Omicron subsides: PM Lee

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addresses the nation today. Photo: Prime Minister’s Office
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addresses the nation today. Photo: Prime Minister’s Office

Singapore is taking giant steps to tackle the raging pandemic that peaked domestically this year.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced today that most of the everchanging public health restrictions will be relaxed, allowing larger gatherings and late-night boozing from next week. 

“This has been a tough fight. With each new wave, we had to move quickly and adapt. Every time we thought we had the pandemic under control, the virus surprised us,” he said.

Starting Tuesday, group gatherings will be upped from five to 10 and will be allowed to dine in at eateries, including hawker centers and coffee shops. The ban on sale and consumption of alcohol after 10:30pm at F&B outlets will be lifted.

Wearing masks will be optional only outdoors as the risk of transmission is significantly lower than indoors. Maintaining a safe distance of 1 meter between unmasked groups will still be enforced.

More employees will be allowed to return to work from offices and capacity limits for larger events will be increased to 75%. Live performances will resume at all venues but the number of performers is capped at 10.

As for travel, Singapore will remove all existing vaccinated travel lanes starting next month. All fully vaccinated travelers coming in can enter by testing negative on a pre-departure COVID-19 test. Applications for entry approvals will not be needed and there will be no limit to the number of daily arrivals.

Land travels by cars and motorcycles to and from Malaysia will also be allowed from next month for fully vaccinated travelers, including unvaccinated children below 12, without the need for quarantine or testing.

Lee reasoned these major changes to a weakening Omicron wave that the over one million in total infected have overcome. 

“The Omicron wave has crested and is now subsiding. With many of us already exposed to the virus and recovered, our population has stronger immunity,” he said, adding that the country’s healthcare “held up” and the pressure is “now easing.”

Hospitals in Singapore have been squeezed dry with the rise in infections that peaked earlier this year, with bed occupancy rates hitting its full capacity. Many staff was overworked due to the lack of manpower and many have quit. 

Singapore yesterday recorded 8,940 cases and six deaths, but only 143 were in need of urgent medical attention. In total, the nation reported 1,044,661 cases and 1,220 deaths.

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