1. COVID-19 vaccination centres to be set up in all HDB towns by end-March
As the nation ramps up its vaccination drive, each of the 24 HDB towns in Singapore will have a community vaccination centre by end-March, with each centre capable of delivering 2,000 vaccinations a day.
Each vaccination centre will be open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. The number of vaccinations it is able to deliver can be adjusted, depending on the number of booths set up at each centre. Vaccine supplies will also be brought in based on the number of appointments made on a particular day.
This will ensure that when more vaccines arrive, they can be quickly distributed to the population, in particular the elderly, explained Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing on Tuesday, 26 January during a visit to the community vaccination centre at Tanjong Pagar Community Club (CC).
So far, two community vaccination centres have been set up, at Tanjong Pagar Community Club (CC) and Teck Ghee CC in Ang Mo Kio — to cater to residents aged 70 and above.
These vaccination centres have been equipped with bigger booths to accommodate wheelchairs and chairs with armrests, to better cater to the elderly.
“Our aim is that by the end of March, we will have one community vaccination centre in each town… and if we need to scale it up faster because the vaccines come in faster, we will make sure that we have the vaccination capacity,” said Mr Chan. He added that the objective is to “build the vaccination capacity ahead of the arrival of the vaccines, so that the vaccination capacity will not be the constraint or the bottleneck”.
He also explained that CCs were chosen as vaccination centres as they give the elderly a sense of familiarity, as previous initiatives such as the distribution of face masks and TraceTogether tokens were also carried out there.
Mr Chan reported that the uptake of vaccines has been “quite encouraging” thus far, with about 300 bookings made by elderly residents in the first two days. He expects the number to increase in the days to come.
Mr Radahakrishnan Menon, assistant chairman of Tanjong Pagar CC’s Senior Citizens’ Executive Committee, said that most of the elderly are agreeable to receiving the jab, but mentioned that some are waiting until after Chinese New Year, as they do not want to risk falling sick over the festive season.
2. New progressive wage model will benefit up to 3,000 workers in waste management sector
The Ministry of Manpower announced on Thursday that up to 3,000 local workers in the waste management sector will be covered under a new progressive wage model (PWM).
This will be the fifth sector where workers will benefit from the PWM. Currently, about 80,000 workers in the cleaning, security, and landscape sectors are under the PWM.
The PWM was first implemented in 2015 and was designed to raise the salaries of low-wage workers through skills upgrading and improvements to their productivity. It was first implemented in the cleaning sector and expanded to the security and landscaping sector the following year.
To oversee the implementation of the PWM, a Tripartite Cluster for Waste Management was formed. It will be chaired by Mr Fahmi Aliman, Director of Operations & Mobilisation at NTUC and co-chaired by Mr Felix Loh, Deputy Honorary Secretary at the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF).
Additionally, the cluster will comprise representatives from service buyers, service providers, unions, and government agencies.
The cluster will be consulting stakeholders in the waste management sector to develop job ladders, training requirements, and wage benchmarks of the PWM. It aims to issue its recommendations in the second half of this year.
3. DBS introduces new measures to reduce long queues for new notes at ATMs prior to Chinese New Year
To reduce long queues outside its pop-up ATMs for new dollar notes ahead of Chinese New Year, DBS Bank has rolled out additional measures including putting up end queue signage to cap the numbers, deploying on-site safety ambassadors to enforce safe management measures, and updating the estimated waiting times online on Google Maps.
Additionally, DBS is advising customers to come back another day if they are unlikely to reach their turn by 10 p.m.
As many rush to get new notes for hongbao (red packets) to be given out during Chinese New Year, long queues comprising mostly senior citizens have been seen outside the bank’s ATMs which dispenses new notes at 41 locations islandwide.
These queues have been observed even after the Monetary Authority of Singapore advised the public to adopt e-hongbao.
Customers are also able to collect new notes at DBS branches by making a reservation online. However, DBS has said that more than 80 per cent of their online reservation slots have been filled.
Only customers aged 60 and above, or those with disabilities, are allowed to walk in to DBS branches to collect new notes.
Those who still wish to collect new notes will have until 10 February to collect the notes reserved online. Meanwhile, the pop-up ATMs will dispense new notes until 1 p.m. on 11 February.
4. Dengue cases down but danger far from over; NEA urges continued vigilance
The National Environment Agency (NEA) has warned that while the number of dengue cases in Singapore has fallen, the danger is far from over.
There was a drop in cases in the previous weeks, with 156 cases reported last week as compared to 236 infections a week in mid-December.
However, the population of the Aedes aegypti mosquito (the vector that spreads dengue) actually increased by 8 per cent last month. Moreover, DenV-3 and DenV-4 — two dengue serotypes that are less common in Singapore — have increased and now account for more than half of infections.
In total, there are four dengue serotypes found in Singapore. Those who have been infected are protected only against that specific type and remain susceptible to the other three.
In the past three decades, all dengue outbreaks here were caused by either DenV-1 or DenV-2. As neither DenV-3 nor DenV-4 has infected large numbers of people in the past, the vast majority of the population would be susceptible.
The rise of DenV-3 last year likely contributed to the largest dengue outbreak in Singapore’s history, with 35,315 people infected and at least 29 dead from the disease. The previous high was recorded at 22,170 infections in 2013. The most number of deaths was 25, in 2005.
The NEA has thus called for greater vigilance against dengue due to the increased risk of a large number of the population being susceptible to infection by DenV-3 and DenV-4.
The NEA has promised to “adopt a high tempo of preventive inspections to remove mosquito breeding habitats and further reduce the risk of dengue transmission”. Last year, the NEA carried out about one million inspections for mosquito breeding and found 23,400 breeding habitats.
5. Olympics organisers faced with COVID-19 vaccination dilemma
Amidst making the call to proceed with the Tokyo Games this summer, Olympic organisers have found themselves grappling with another issue — whether or not to make vaccinations mandatory for athletes.
Denis Massegila, president of the French National Olympic Committee, said that there was no choice but to vaccinate and that “holding the Games is at stake”.
Thus far, the International Olympic Committee has stipulated that it encourages the vaccination of athletes, but it cannot impose inoculation.
IOC president Thomas Bach has said there would be “neither a vaccine obligation nor a priority to athletes” for this summer’s Olympics. Bach cannot impose tests “for legal reasons,” said Masseglia.
“For those who do not wish to be vaccinated, it is important to know that the precautions for participation will be extremely tough,” said Masseglia in a video press conference, warning of “quarantine of a fortnight” and “tests in the mornings and evenings”.
Another concern that organisers have is the impact of international visitors, as a quarter of the Japanese population is over 64, and 12.5 per cent are over the age of 75. The country plans to kick start mass vaccinations in May this year.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said that they are currently trying to balance safety against compulsory vaccination. “We are considering comprehensive measures to hold a safe and secure games, even without making vaccines a condition,” he said during a press conference last week.