Vaccines are a national priority but not ‘silver bullets’ for reopening, Singapore minister said

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SINGAPORE – Singapore needs a “suite of measures” beyond Covid vaccinations in order to open up its economy and allow international travel, said S Iswaran, the country’s Minister of Communications and Information.

Some of those measures may include testing for Covid-19, he told TBEN’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Tuesday, as part of the World Economic Forum’s Global Tech Governance Summit.

“The way we see it, it has to be a series of measures. Vaccinations are essential but they are not silver bullets,” he said. “We need this to be complemented by a strong and robust testing regime, as well as effective and secure management measures.”

He said such solutions will be important in the future, “whether it’s opening up the economy more” or allowing cross-border activities or travel, Iswaran said.

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People wearing protective masks prepare to enter a mall in Singapore’s shopping district, Orchard Road.

Suhaimi Abdullah | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The minister said vaccines are a “national priority” and will help Singapore return to pre-Covid economic activity levels, but this process would involve small steps over time, rather than a big and sudden change .

“It will be more of an evolutionary process than a revolutionary one,” he said.

This is probably the case worldwide, he added. “The way we are going to move forward … is going to be measured, benchmarked in terms of facilitating cross-border flows of people.”

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Digital travel card

The way we see it is that at the end of the day you need an effective immunization program, and then we need to develop mutual recognition of those immunization programs.

S Iswaran

Minister of Communications and Information of Singapore

Iswaran said vaccine passports were open to interpretation and “maybe even misinterpretation.”

“The way we look at it is that at the end of the day you need an effective immunization program, and then we need to develop mutual recognition of those immunization programs,” he told TBEN.

This must be done bilaterally and multilaterally to allow countries to think about opening their borders, he added.

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The overall situation in a country or region will also be a factor as it shapes the perception of risk, the Singapore minister said.

Singapore’s community transmission has been low and has stabilized at around two cases per week for the past two weeks, according to the Department of Health.

The Southeast Asian nation has reported 60,495 confirmed cases and 30 deaths as of April 5.

As of March 29, more than 1.3 million doses of the vaccine had been administered in the country. About 375,605 people are fully immunized.

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