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Singapore will lift rules on indoor masking in most venues and ease quarantines for non-vaccinated travelers as the country scraps some of its last pandemic-era curbs after Covid infections dropped. 

Masks in indoor settings will no longer be mandatory from Aug. 29, except for certain areas such as public transport and health-care facilities like hospitals and nursing homes, the Health Ministry said in a statement Wednesday. Mask-wearing on private transport modes, as well as school buses and taxis, will be optional. This confirms an earlier announcement by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his annual National Day Rally speech Sunday. 

“We are in a much better position, but we certainly do not feel it is appropriate for us to throw caution to the wind and remove all our measures," Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong told reporters Wednesday. Even if there’s another surge in cases, the government will first study the nature of the wave before deciding if new steps need to be implemented, he said.

Countries across the world, including previous virus hardliners like Australia, have been loathe to reimpose mask mandates even amid a resurgence in cases, while Thailand, a key tourist hub, ended theirs in June. Hong Kong, which rivals Singapore as a financial hub, still has universal mask-wearing rules in place and a three-day travel quarantine.

Singapore, on the other hand, has seen a surge in the number of visitors after it scrapped most of its pandemic measures including compulsory masking outdoors and tests for incoming vaccinated travelers. 

Non-fully vaccinated visitors entering Singapore from 11:59 p.m., Aug. 28 won’t need to quarantine, but will need to test negative within two days before traveling to the city-state. And while masks will no longer be required in airports, travelers will still need them on flights to and from places which stipulate mask-wearing on board. 

Based on the latest serology study, about 70% of Singapore’s population has had Covid, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung. As of Tuesday, average daily infections over a seven-day period fell to 2,700, down from a peak of 10,200 in mid-July, while the number of daily hospitalized cases has halved from a recent peak last month.

Singapore is also recommending a booster shot for children aged 5 to 11 years. Authorities have said that they approved Moderna’s Spikevax for kids including those aged 6 months up to 5 years, and a decision by an advisory panel to administer this is expected soon.

Those aged 60 and above can now also get a second booster dose from five months after their first one. The country is one of the most highly inoculated societies in the world against Covid-19, with 93% of its total population having been double-vaccinated and nearly eight in 10 having received a booster. 

Authorities also said that vaccines capable of tackling the omicron variant are currently being assessed for safety, and Singapore expects to receive supplies in the fourth quarter. Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE asked the US this week to authorize a new Covid booster dose customized against currently circulating strains, while the UK earlier this month became the first country to approve a shot targeting two coronavirus variants.

 

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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