COVID-19: Drug stores to sell test kits as Singapore learns to live with the virus

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaks on May 31, 2021.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaks on May 31, 2021.

Singaporeans will soon be able to purchase coronavirus test kits at drug stores while teenagers may skip the vaccination queue as the city-state prepares to relax restrictions once again. 

New steps and future expectations were announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong this afternoon in a national address on Singapore’s latest response to the coronavirus outbreak, which the government expects is likely to persist and become a part of life, shifting from a pandemic to endemic disease.

“Living with endemic COVID-19 also means we don’t completely close our borders. We need food, essential supplies, workers, business and other travelers to keep on flowing,” he said, later adding: “But as long as our population is mostly vaccinated, we should be able to trace, isolate and treat the cases that pop up, and prevent a severe and disastrous outbreak.”

His comments come as hopes fade that an aggressive, worldwide vaccination campaign could stamp out the disease due to slow and uneven rollouts. Instead, learning to live with the virus in a manageable way was central to the prime minister’s address.

Lee said Singaporeans could soon purchase “DIY” COVID-19 testing kits over the counter at pharmacies while students at secondary and junior colleges can book vaccination appointments starting tomorrow instead of waiting any longer for their turn. 

He also pleaded for the 280,000 unvaccinated senior citizens to take their medicine as well. More than 2.2 million people have so far gotten at least a first dose – roughly 40% of the population. 

Singaporeans have been living with renewed limits on daily life for the past two weeks, including gatherings limited to two and no dining out, in light of new outbreaks across the island. But that could be relaxed June 13, Lee suggested today, before going on to outline the government’s latest response to the pandemic related to testing, vaccination, and contact tracing. 

On coronavirus tracking, Lee said that anyone living with someone identified as a close contact of an infected person must immediately isolate themselves, even before test results are back. Household members will be released from quarantine if the results come back negative. 

Lee said that students – especially those taking their O, N, and A levels – were being prioritized due to the spate of outbreaks affecting schools. The first shots began in December, starting with frontliners and the elderly, followed by age-based groups. Vaccination for those 40 to 44 is underway. 

The final group to be vaccinated will be those 39 and under, according to Lee. They can expect to make their appointments mid-June. 

Singapore has reported more than 62,000 cases and 33 deaths since the outbreak began last year. The Health Ministry recorded 23 new infections today, including 16 caused by local transmission.

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