Vaccination-differentiated measures to be expanded, starting with visits and activities at residential care homes
SINGAPORE: Vaccination-differentiated safe management measures (VDS) will be expanded to more settings starting with residential care homes, the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced on Monday (Nov 8).
This is because such homes are a "vulnerable setting" where unvaccinated residents are likely to suffer worse outcomes than those who are vaccinated should they contract COVID-19, said MOH in a press release.
Noting that these measures will apply to visits and activities for residents, MOH added that it would share more details once they are available.
The expansion of such vaccination-differentiated measures is to better protect the unvaccinated who are at higher risk of infection and severe illness, it said.
The ministry added that it would study the further easing of safe management measures to other settings which are able to enforce both vaccination-differentiated measures as well as pre-activity testing for COVID-19, using antigen rapid test (ART) kits.
"Under this regime, all participants will need to be fully vaccinated and will be required to produce a valid negative ART result on-site prior to the activity," said MOH.
This will begin with pilots in sports settings, allowing team sports to resume for groups of up to 10 fully vaccinated people - including players, umpires and others - to play together in "controlled and supervised settings" at suitable ActiveSG sports centres and People's Association community clubs from Wednesday.
This combination of vaccination-differentiated measures and pre-event testing will also be tested at selected mass sporting events as well as selected meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) events, where some easing of safe management measures will be allowed.
"If successful, we can expand such pilots to additional settings," said MOH.
During a press conference on Monday, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong noted the current measures for such events allow for pre-event testing for those who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
"It is vaccination or test, but we are moving towards a new protocol of VDS plus ART – vaccination and test – for additional precautions," said the co-chair of the multi-ministry taskforce tackling the pandemic.
"And with this additional safeguard, we can ease further the safe management measures."
CONCESSION FOR THE MEDICALLY INELIGIBLE
Noting that it was taking a stronger stance against those who are voluntarily unvaccinated against the coronavirus, MOH said it recognised there were those who are medically ineligible for all COVID-19 vaccines under the National Vaccination Programme.
A concession for these medically ineligible people will come into place from Dec 1, the ministry said.
From Nov 15, these individuals can visit any general practitioner clinic, as well as public and private healthcare institutions, to be certified as medically ineligible, subject to several conditions.
The medical ineligibility will apply to those who were unable to complete their vaccination regime due to allergies or a previous severe adverse reaction to all vaccines under the National Vaccination Programme.
It will also apply to those who have had a transplant within the past three months, those undergoing aggressive immunotherapy, or those with active cancer on treatment.
MOH noted that while those undergoing treatment for cancer can take the COVID-19 vaccine safely, their doctors may advise delaying their vaccination to a time when the vaccine will be more effective for them.
This is because the patients will be severely immunocompromised during the course of their medical treatment, it noted.
"Their medical ineligibility status will expire upon reaching the date indicated by the certifying doctor on when they may take the vaccine," added MOH, adding they "may be further reviewed by their doctors as necessary".
Those medically ineligible for COVID-19 vaccines will be issued with a paper memo, which should be presented along with a government-issued photo identification card to be exempted from vaccination-differentiated measures, said MOH.
It added that it was working with the Government Technology Agency of Singapore to have their status reflected in their TraceTogether app, allowing them to pass through TraceTogether/ Safe Entry check-in systems without needing to show the paper memo.
MOH said it would update healthcare establishments on the certification process.
"While we have extended a concession to those who are medically ineligible to be able to dine-in, enter malls and participate in activities where VDS is required, they remain unvaccinated and their risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 and/or becoming severely ill remains real and very high, said MOH.
"We strongly encourage these individuals to minimise such activities and to use this concession judiciously."