The Singapore government is adjusting its approach to managing Omicron cases based on an updated understanding of the variant.
The move was announced by the Ministry of Health (MOH) in a press release on Dec. 26 night.
Omicron cases to follow Protocols 1-2-3
From Dec. 27, 2021, Singapore will allow Omicron cases to follow Protocols 1-2-3, as with other Covid-19 cases.
Omicron cases will be placed on the Home Recovery Programme or managed at community care facilities, depending on their clinical presentation, instead of being isolated in dedicated facilities by default.
Close contacts of Omicron cases will be placed on Protocol 3, where they will be issued a seven-day Health Risk Warning instead of being quarantined for 10 days.
Those currently in quarantine will be progressively discharged over the next few days.
Updated travel restrictions
With the increasing global spread of Omicron, MOH is updating its travel restrictions.
In particular, the restrictions on Bostwana, Eswatini, Ghana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zimbabwe will end from Dec. 26, 11:59pm.
All passengers with 14-day travel history to the countries listed above will be allowed to enter and transit through Singapore, and will be subjected to border measures for Category IV countries/ regions.
Keeping workplaces safe
However, from Jan. 15, MOH will be removing the pre-event testing (PET) concession for unvaccinated persons to go to work, under the Workforce Vaccination Measures.
This means that those who are not vaccinated will be unable to return to the workplace, even with PET.
Partially vaccinated workers (i.e. those who have taken at least one dose of vaccine) will be granted a grace period until Jan. 31, 2022 to complete their vaccination regime.
The move seeks to bolster the country's protection against a large wave of cases locally, and to keep workplaces safe.
Omicron variant detected in over 110 countries
The Omicron variant has been detected in over 110 countries, mainly in Africa and Europe.
Current observations suggest that the Omicron variant is more transmissible, and it has also overtaken the Delta variant as the predominant variant in numerous countries, such as the United Kingdom and Denmark.
According to MOH, available data suggests that Omicron infections face reduced risks of hospitalisation and severe disease compared to Delta infections.
In Singapore, Omicron cases have so far not been severe as well—none has required intensive care or oxygen supplementation, although the ministry acknowledged that this may be partially due to most cases being fully vaccinated and from younger age groups.
Booster shots remain important to enhance protection against infection and severe disease, MOH added.