Singapore to scrap outdoor mask mandate, reopen border as COVID eases

Singapore said Thursday it will scrap its outdoor mask mandate and reopen its border to fully vaccinated visitors from all countries as COVID-19 infections subside in the city-state.

The outdoor mask rule, imposed about two years ago to curb the spread of the coronavirus, will be repealed next Tuesday though it will still be mandatory to wear a mask indoors. The quarantine-free entry for those visitors will take effect on Thursday.

"We believe that we are now ready to take a decisive step forward towards living with COVID-19," Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a televised address.

Other easing measures include doubling the size of any meeting to 10 people from the current five and allowing 75 percent of workers in each workplace to return to work from the current 50 percent.

On the border reopening, Lee said, it "will reconnect Singapore with the world."

"It will give a much-needed boost to businesses, particularly the tourism sector and help Singapore reclaim its position as a business and aviation hub."

At a virtual press conference after Lee's speech, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said that "normal travel will resume almost to like pre-COVID times for fully vaccinated persons."

Visitors will still be required to take pre-departure COVID-19 tests but will not have to take any upon arrival.

The decision to dismantle many of the restrictions imposed on Singaporeans comes as the number of new daily infections has fallen to about 8,700, from around 23,900 at the beginning of March.

Ong said Singapore's experience with COVID-19 has been less severe than other countries, with 200 deaths per million of its population, which is lower than countries such as Australia, South Korea and Japan.

As of Wednesday, Singapore has recorded just over 1.04 million COVID-19 infections and 1,220 deaths.

© Kyodo News