Singapore hopes to take ‘decisive steps’ toward easing restrictions after omicron peaks


SINGAPORE — Singapore’s Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said the country is “quietly confident” about handling the highly transmissible omicron variant, despite the recent surge in Covid cases the country recorded last week.

The city-state may even consider easing restrictions when the latest wave blows over, said the minister who is also co-chair of the nation’s Covid-19 task force.

“We are quietly confident in dealing with this omicron wave,” he told CNBC’s Martin Soong on Monday.

“The infection numbers are [at an] all-time high, and it may even go beyond 20,000. But because of our very high vaccination rate boosters, the vast majority of infected persons have milder symptoms.”

Singapore reported a record 19,420 Covid cases on Feb. 15.

The city-state is aiming to loosen Covid restrictions further once the omicron wave subsides, said Wong.

We can never rule out the fact that it may be a more dangerous or deadly variant. So we just have to be prepared for that.
Lawrence Wong
Singapore’s finance minister

The country’s hospitals and intensive care units were not overwhelmed by the recent spike in cases, and the public health system is under control, the minister added.

“If this situation continues like that, we believe that we should be able to take some decisive steps towards easing. Once we have passed this present peak of the omicron wave,” he said.

End of the pandemic?

Wong also said that if new Covid mutations turn out to be milder than omicron, it will give some degree of confidence that the pandemic could be nearing its end.

The world will still continue to come across Covid variants and mutations in the near term, he acknowledged, saying Singapore will monitor the global situation closely.

“Hopefully, when that new mutation appears in the world it will be milder than omicron. And I think that will give us confidence that we are seeing the end of the pandemic,” Wong told CNBC.

“But we can never rule out the fact that it may be a more dangerous or deadly variant. So we just have to be prepared for that,” he said.

As part of its Covid strategy, Singapore will maintain its “vaccinations, boosters and therapeutics,” which have proven to be sound so far in helping to get life back to normal, the minister said.

Singapore recorded 13,623 new Covid-19 cases as of noon on Monday, comprising 13,476 local and 147 imported infections, according to official health ministry statistics. There were seven deaths, taking the overall death toll from coronavirus complications to 952.

About 94% of the eligible population have completed the full vaccination regimen, and 66% have received the vaccine booster shot, the data showed.

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