Up to 50% of fully-vaccinated employees may return to the workplace from 1 January; while the current concession for unvaccinated employees to return to the office with only a negative test result may possibly be removed, Minister Lawrence Wong has said.
From 1 January 2021, up to 50% of fully-vaccinated employees in Singapore will be allowed to return to the workplace, the Ministry of Health announced on Tuesday (14 December 2021).
As further clarified by Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong at the Multi-Ministry Taskforce conference on Tuesday, the current concession for unvaccinated employees being allowed to return to the office with only a negative test result may possibly be removed. If done so, unvaccinated employees may not return to the workplace, even with a negative result. However, this consideration is still under discussion. Any further changes will be provided in future updates, and employers may refer to the Ministry of Manpower's requirements for safe management measures and updated advisory on COVID-19 vaccination at the workplace.
For those returning to the office, employers and employees alike are still reminded to be mindful of the existing safety measures such as wearing a mask, and the use of SafeEntry / TraceTogether. Social gatherings at the workplace will still not be allowed.
To further encourage regular testing, the Government is also extending the current subsidies for sectors under Mandated Rostered Routine Testing (RRT) until 31 March 2022. Beyond that, employers and businesses should be prepared to factor in testing costs as part of their normal business operations, MOH stated.
Similarly, the number of participants in work-related events will be capped at 50 persons. This cap will be raised only for events where all participants remain masked and seated, at a safe distance from each other, MOH said. All participants must also comply with the Vaccination-Differentiated Safe Management Measures (VDS) requirements, which have also been updated.
In that vein, from 1 February 2022, all events, irrespective of event size, must implement VDS in order to proceed as even smaller-sized events can spark transmission that can then spread to wider groups of people. While currently, only events with over 50 attendees are required to implement VDS, this existing concession will only be lifted in end-January 2022 so as to minimise disruption to events that are already planned for.
Additionally, VDS will be extended to all indoor sports facilities, Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs)1, and leisure guests in hotels, hostels, and serviced apartments.
Coming to exemptions on VDS — from 1 January 2022, all recovered persons from COVID-19 who are not fully vaccinated will only be given a 180-day exemption after infection to enter settings where VDS are implemented. This is reduced from the current exemption period of 270 days, and calculated starting from the day of the first positive PCR test, obtained in Singapore.
"The adjustment is made due to concerns over the transmissibility and heightened reinfection risk of the Omicron variant, and quicker waning of protection acquired through past infections. These recovered persons who are not fully vaccinated should seek to complete their primary series vaccination regime promptly," MOH highlighted.
Meanwhile, non-fully vaccinated individuals who had recovered from COVID-19 infection prior to 1 January 2022 will also have their exemption period reduced from 270 days to 180 days. However, individuals who will already exceed the 180-day period as at 1 January 2022 will be granted an additional one month grace period till 31 January 2022 to complete their primary series vaccination regime, so as to continue being able to enter VDS settings.
As recovered individuals need only one dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine or two doses of Sinovac under the National Vaccination Programme to complete their primary series vaccination regime, they should do so latest by 17 January 2022, to allow an interval of 14 days from the completion of the regimen to be considered fully vaccinated. During the grace period from the date when they have exceeded the 180-day period, these individuals can produce their discharge memo for entry into VDS settings.
1 Students in IHLs who are completing their full-time NITEC/Higher NITEC, Diploma or Degree programmes will be exempted from the VDS measures requirement when entering their respective educational institutions.
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