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The government has set aside more than $1 billion to work with promising vaccine candidates, including Pfizer-BioNTech, Sinovac, and Moderna. Social gatherings will also go up from groups of five to eight people in Phase 3, and capacity limits in public places and places of worship will also increase

After almost six months in Phase 2, Singapore will be entering Phase 3 of its safe reopening on December 28, in two weeks.

In Phase 3, Covid-19 measures will be relaxed further, with restrictions on social gatherings in public increased from five to eight people. Households will also be able to receive up to eight visitors.

“So eight people can dine out together, or visit someone’s home. This will make it easier to hold family get-togethers during the festive period.

- Prime minister Lee Hsien Loong, in a televised address to the nation today

As social gathering sizes increase, capacity limits in public spaces such as malls, attractions and places of worship will also be eased further.

International borders will, however, remain largely closed, reopening in a controlled and safe way. As it does so, Mr Lee noted that Singapore will likely see more imported cases and there will be a risk of these cases spreading to the community, citing recent reports of airport staff, as well as a marine worker, who were each suspected to have come into contact with infected cases on the job.

However, as trade and travel are Singapore’s lifeblood, Mr Lee assured that the government would take every precaution to prevent imported cases from triggering another outbreak.

Despite the progress into Phase 3, Mr Lee cautions that the coronavirus is “most likely still circulating silently within our community.”

“Each of us needs to play our part. By all means, make use of the higher limits and reconnect with friends and family, but please do not abandon your mindset of watchfulness and caution,” he said.

“This is absolutely not the time to relax and let our guard down or to hold a big party, imagining that the problem is gone.”

According to Mr Lee, Phase 3 may last “for quite a while”—possibly a year or more—depending on how soon Covid-19 vaccines become available to Singapore.

Of more than 200 vaccine candidates being developed, the government has already set aside more than $1 billion to sign advance purchasing agreements with the most promising candidates, including Pfizer-BioNTech, Sinovac, and Moderna.

The former has been approved by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) for pandemic use, with the first shipment arriving by the end of this month—making Singapore one of the first countries to obtain.

Pfizer-BioNTech is recommended for individuals aged 16 and above, but not for pregnant women, immunocompromised patients, and those under 16 as more data is required for evaluation. The vaccine would be administered in two doses, 21 days apart.

Other vaccines are expected to arrive in the coming months, with plans to have enough vaccines for everyone in Singapore by the third quarter of 2021. Priority will be given to those at the highest risk, such as healthcare workers and front-line personnel, as well as the elderly and vulnerable.

The rest of the population would be able to get progressively vaccinated by the end of 2021. It is highly encouraged for all adults and available for free, but will be made voluntary.

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