Health Minister Ong Ye Kung described Singapore’s border measures as “somewhere in between” stringent and liberal.
The remark came as several countries, including some European Union nations, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, South Korea and Japan, were reimposing border control measures for inbound travellers from China.
He added that Singapore does not discriminate against any country in implementing its border measures as severe COVID cases can originate from any country or region in the world.
Minister Ong was delivering a Ministerial Statement in Parliament on 9 Jan in response to several Parliamentary Questions filed by members of the House.
He said that Singapore’s current border measure of controlling the number of travellers and requiring Pre-Departure Testing for unvaccinated at-risk travellers has led to a low number of imported infections.
This was even when China was experiencing a surge in its COVID-19 cases.
COVID Cases From China “Very Small”
In his statement, Minister Ong shared that 4 weeks leading up to China’s reopening date, 8 Jan, 200 travellers from China were found to be COVID positive.
This number accounted for less than 5% of total reported cases.
In comparison, within the same period, more than 50% of COVID cases came from ASEAN countries. Other parts of Asia accounted for 15% and 9% came from the Middle East.
He added that out of all imported cases, only 7 developed severe illness, with only 1 coming from China.
“These are not large numbers, so the impact on our healthcare system is very small,” he said.
Singapore Cannot Be Complacent
Even as such, he warned that Singapore “cannot be complacent”.
“The measures may work now, but not permanently", he said.
“We will continually assess the situation and if need be, make adjustments or implement new measures. At all times, our decisions must be based on science, evidence and data,” he added.
More importantly, Mr Ong said that what is more worrying is the emergence of a “new, unknown and more dangerous variant of concern”.
“Our main worry is that with the virus continuing to spread throughout the world, there is a higher chance that a new variant of concern may emerge – from anywhere in the world,” he added.
When the time comes, he said that Singapore must be prepared to “hunker down”.
This includes reinstating measures such as strict border controls, quarantine for travellers, and social restrictions (including limit on group sizes).
These measures might be reinstated until a new and effective vaccine is developed, he said.
Vaccination Part Of A New Norm
As such, Mr Ong highlighted that COVID vaccinations have become a part of the new norm.
“For an endemic disease like Influenza, vaccinations are encouraged every year, which will help avoid many deaths,” he said, and added:
“The current situation where we feel threatened by rising infections around us, is a clear illustration why vaccination needs to be an integral part of our on-going defence against endemic COVID-19.”