Singaporeans can expect to gather in bigger groups when the country further eases COVID-19 restrictions Dec. 28 and will soon get its first batch of vaccines.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced this afternoon that groups of up to eight can meet when the country enters its least-restrictive phase of coronavirus restrictions since they were put in place during the “circuit breaker” partial lockdown in April.
Singapore has purchased vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, the first shipment of which will arrive before New Year’s Day, with the prime minister and his colleagues among those to get vaccinated early to show “that we believe the vaccines are safe.”
He did not say how many doses were part of the first batch, but added that they expect to receive enough doses to vaccinate everyone by the end of June.
“Please understand that even as we enter phase three, the battle is far from won. The COVID-19 virus has not been eradicated, there’s a long way to go. Around the world, the pandemic is still raging,” he said today.
Starting Dec. 28, Singaporeans can invite more than four friends to hang out when the cap is raised from five to eight. Other measures such as wearing masks and safe distancing still apply. Capacity limits at malls, attractions, and places of worship will also be increased. Live performances can resume with up to 250 people, the Health Ministry later announced.
Lee broke the news that COVID-19 vaccines will be free for all Singaporeans and long-term residents but would not be made compulsory. The prime minister did urge everyone to get vaccinated, especially adults, and said priority would be given to the elderly and frontline workers. The rest of the population is expected to be vaccinated by the end of next year.
Singapore has reported 58,325 COVID-19 cases and 29 deaths since January. Next month marks one year since the health crisis began.