1. Extra COVID-19 testing for all newly arrived foreign workers in CMP sectors; Mandatory serology testing for foreign domestic workers and confinement nannies
To further reduce the risk of transmission, the post-stay-home notice testing regime will be extended to all newly arrived work permit and S Pass workers in the construction, marine and process (CMP) sectors from higher-risk countries and regions.
All such workers will thus be required to stay at a designated facility for 21 days upon arrival. Previously, only those headed to dormitories were subject to the additional 7-days testing regime after completing their 14-day stay-home notice (SHN).
This new requirement will be implemented from 5 February onwards, and will apply to all workers who have yet to complete their 14-day SHN as of 5 February, and all new arrivals to Singapore from then.
Meanwhile, foreign domestic workers and confinement nannies arriving in Singapore from 5 February onwards will also be subjected to a serology test for COVID-19 on top of the on-arrival polymerase chain reaction (PCR) swab test. The test will be mandatory for maids and nannies with recent travel history to higher-risk countries and regions.
The serology test is able to detect if a person has recovered from a past COVID-19 infection and thus, have antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Currently, travellers from higher-risk countries and regions are required to serve a 14-day SHN at dedicated facilities. These countries include the Philippines, Indonesia, and Myanmar, where the majority of maids in Singapore are from, as well as Malaysia, where most confinement nannies are from.
With serology testing, those that test positive can then be released from their SHN period, helping to defray the costs for employers.
2. HSA authorises use of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine in Singapore; First shipment expected around March
The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) has announced on Wednesday, 3 February, that interim authorisation has been granted for the use of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine in Singapore for individuals aged 18 and above.
The Moderna vaccination regime will involve two doses administered 28 days apart.
The first shipment of the Moderna vaccine is expected to arrive in March, barring any disruptions to the shipment schedule. Subsequently, the Ministry of Health (MOH) will progressively roll out the vaccine.
HSA’s authorisation of the vaccine comes after reviewing data from Moderna’s pre-clinical studies, clinical trials in human volunteers, as well as manufacturing and quality controls.
Two groups of experts from HSA’s Medicines Advisory Committee and panel of infectious disease experts were consulted during the review.
It was determined that based on the data submitted to date, the vaccine is “safe, efficacious, and of good quality”, and that the benefits outweigh the known risks. Additionally, it has demonstrated a high vaccine efficacy of 94 per cent.
The Moderna vaccine has also undergone an independent review by the Expert Committee on COVID-19 Vaccination, who has examined its safety and efficacy data for different population segments in Singapore.
At the moment, the Moderna vaccine is the second vaccine to be granted interim authorisation under the Pandemic Special Access Route (PSAR) after the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Under PSAR, the HSA can evaluate new vaccines, medicines, and medical devices from the early stages of clinical studies as more data becomes available on a real-time basis instead of waiting for the full data set to be submitted before beginning evaluations. This expedites the process while still maintaining scientific rigour.
One of the conditions for interim authorisation under the PSAR is for Moderna to continue monitoring the longer-term efficacy of the vaccine and continue to follow up on the safety of the vaccine over a longer time frame. They will also have to continue studying the safety of the vaccine in certain subpopulations, such as children.
Over time, the HSA will continue to “actively review” the data submitted by Moderna to ensure that the benefits continue to outweigh known risks. The PSAR authorisation may be terminated at any time should new data deem otherwise.
MOH has also announced that more doses of vaccines from both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna will arrive over the course of 2021. They will continue to monitor the vaccine supply to ensure that there will be sufficient vaccines for all Singaporeans and long-term residents in Singapore by Q3 2021.
Those who are medically eligible for vaccination are highly encouraged to get vaccinated when offered. At the moment, individuals with a history of anaphylaxis or a severe or multiple allergies to medicines or food, pregnant women, severely immunocompromised individuals, and those under 18 should not receive the Moderna vaccine.
Individuals receiving the vaccine may experience common side effects including pain, swelling at the injection site, fatigue, headache, muscle ache, fever, chills, vomiting and joint pain. These symptoms should resolve on its own within a few days.
There will also be a small proportion of people who may experience severe allergic reactions upon vaccination. In such cases, immediate medical attention should be sought and they should not receive the second dose of the vaccine.
3. 11 SMRT bus services to have revised operating hours on Chinese New Year’s Eve
Eleven bus services under SMRT will have shortened operating hours for Chinese New Year’s Eve on 11 February.
Affected bus services include 964, 971, 981, 652, 653, 656, 657, 670, 951E, 963e, and 982E.
The last bus timing of service 964 will be brought forward from 10:45pm to 5:00pm, and 10 other bus services will also have adjusted operating hours for evening trips. Operating hours for the morning trips will remain the same.
The revised operating hours will aid passengers who leave work earlier on Chinese New Year’s eve.
4. World Economic Forum’s special annual meeting to be rescheduled from May to August
Due to the COVID-19 situation, the World Economic Forum (WEF)’s annual meeting in Singapore has been postponed from May to 7 – 20 August 2021.
In a statement on Wednesday, the WEF noted that the change to the meeting’s timing “reflects the international challenges in containing the pandemic”, while acknowledging that it was confident of the measures in place to ensure that the meeting was safe and effective.
Current restrictions on global travel were cited as a limiting factor for the planning of a physical meeting within the first half of 2021, as the WEF observed that “differing quarantine and air transport regulations have increased the lead time necessary to ensure that participants globally can make arrangements to join”.
The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said that the Government is amenable to the rescheduled meeting and understands the challenges that the WEF faces.
Traditionally conducted in Switzerland at the of end January, the WEF’s special annual meeting brings together leaders in the politics, business and education sectors for the purpose of discussing critical issues of global significance.
The WEF said that the 2021 meeting in Singapore would be the first international leadership summit to address pandemic recovery from COVID-19 and would pave the way to create a more sustainable world.
WEF founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab noted that the meeting would “provide the place for leaders from business, government and civil society to come together to address the steps for global recovery.”
In January, Minister of State for Trade and Industry Alvin Tan shared in Parliament that participants of the WEF meeting would be subjected to stringent health regimen, which includes taking COVID-19 tests prior to departure and on arrival and abiding by safety measures in place.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong noted that the WEF is vital to encouraging discussion amongst global leaders, as a platform that enables those from smaller and larger countries alike to be heard.
The WEF said that Singapore conference would entail both virtual and physical participation from global leaders.