4 Highlights of PM Lee Hsien Loong’s COVID-19 Address

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong laid out Singapore’s plan to tackle COVID-19 in a live broadcast last May 31. Here is everything you need to know about Monday’s national address.


If the current situation continues to improve and the number of community cases drops further, restrictions will be relaxed. PM Lee noted that the number of daily cases decreased due to the support of the Singaporeans. He said that Singapore is on track to bring the current outbreak under control and is on its way to ease the restrictions after June 13.

The authorities will be certain about all these in the next week or so. In the meantime, he encouraged everyone to remain vigilant and to go out only if necessary.


In line with Singapore’s strategy to increase the rate of testing and to quickly detect COVID-19 cases, self-administered test kits will soon be sold. These kits will be helpful for front-liners who want to test themselves frequently or for individuals who are concerned about being infected.

PM Lee said that these DIY test kits for coronavirus will be less uncomfortable and less complicated than the regular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) swab tests. It will soon be available for purchase over the counter at pharmacies nationwide.


To efficiently control the number of cases in the country, wider testing will be done on a routinely basis. This action is in response to the mutation of the virus (i.e., as it became more transmissible). The authorities will regularly and routinely test people in work, social, community, and other normal settings.

PM Lee highlighted that extensive testing would strengthen the safety measures and give Singapore the confidence to resume larger-scale gatherings. He added that routine, large-scale, simple, and fast testing is expected to be part of the new normal.

The rostered routine testing (RRT) is currently being carried out in several higher-risk settings such as hospitals, migrant worker dormitories, construction worksites, seaports, and nursing homes. Frequent testing can be done in more places such as restaurants, offices, and shopping malls with faster and cheaper tests made available.


Singapore has received further confirmation of quicker vaccine deliveries over the next two months. The latest supply schedule will allow Singapore to further boost its vaccination program.

It is important to know that people aged 60 and above can now walk into any vaccination center to get vaccinated, even without an appointment. The next group to be vaccinated will be students, according to PM Lee. This is due to the growing numbers of children getting infected in schools and tuition centers during the latest outbreak. Vaccination bookings for students opened last June 1, with priority given to the graduating cohorts for O, N, and A levels as well as students with special needs. Students aged 12 and above will be next in line.

Image Credits: pixabay.com

Lastly, adults aged 39 and younger will be vaccinated around mid-June. PM Lee reminded everyone that…

“This group is quite large. Therefore, we will give the Singaporeans among them a two-week priority window to book your appointments first before we open up generally to the rest who want to be vaccinated.”

Sources: 1 & 2


Singapore’s health minister assures sufficient free vaccines for all citizens, permanent residents, and long-term residents

a lady getting vaccinated

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong assures the public in Parliament on Monday (Jan 4) that for all citizens, permanent residents, and long-term residents, Singapore has acquired ample vaccines, with shipments expected to arrive by the third quarter of 2021.

The abovementioned groups will receive the vaccines at no extra costs and include employment pass, S-Pass, and work permit holders. Alongside foreign domestic workers, dependent pass, long-term visit pass, and student pass holders, a total of about 5.7 million people can obtain the injections.

Vaccines would arrive in batches

On Dec 21, the first shipment of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines arrived in Singapore and was given to employees of the National Centre for Infectious Diseases from Dec 30.

Mr Gan, the co-chair of the multi-ministerial task force assembled to address the pandemic, said the vaccines would come in batches, with further supplies anticipated in the coming months. This includes those from Moderna and Sinovac.

Residents urged to get vaccinated
a man receiving the COVID-19 vaccine

Image Credits: news.abs-cbn.com

Mr Gan also advised as many people to get vaccinated as it would be a significant move for Singapore to return to everyday life.

“This will not only protect yourself, but also indirectly protect others who cannot be vaccinated due to medical reasons. This collective protection will be more effective the more people are vaccinated,” he shared.

Singapore should avoid being complacent

Although there may be those who believe that considering Singapore’s limited number of COVID-19 cases recently, there is little need to get vaccinated, Mr Gan cautioned that people here should not be complacent and only hurry to receive the vaccine when an epidemic arises.

“We have seen a few community cases in the last few days, which shows clearly that there are hidden cases among us. We are also seeing new variants that are more contagious. Any of these cases has a risk of sparking a major outbreak as we have seen in other countries.

The best time to vaccinate is now. If people wait till an outbreak has happened to get themselves vaccinated, it will be too late, both to protect themselves and to prevent the outbreak in the first place,” he noted.

Vaccinations for the elderly will start from February
an elderly shopping for groceries

Image Credits: The Straits Times

Previously, the authorities indicated that they would give priority to those most at risk. This explains why the first to be vaccinated were healthcare practitioners. Latest updates suggest that injections for the elderly will begin from February, starting with people from 70 years of age.

Singapore would also target those in roles with a significant risk of a super-spreading occurrence emerging. This refers to employees in the construction, maritime, and process industries.

Vaccines will be allocated based on availability

Mr Gan said people would not be offered a preference for which vaccine they would like to receive. Instead, vaccinations would be assigned depending on their availability, the different vaccines’ medical indications, and various subgroups’ appropriateness.

“Allowing individuals to have a choice of vaccines will unnecessarily complicate the already complex vaccination programme,” he added.

Prior bookings for vaccinations will be necessary
Singapore polyclinic

Image Credits: The Straits Times

The minister also said that considering the vaccines’ cold-chain criteria and multi-dose capsules, prior bookings would be needed. He mentioned that Singapore would be presented with more information about how to make bookings in due time.

A physical card will be provided to those injected. This will inform them of their commitment to come for their second dose, show the issued injection, and offer guidance following vaccination. The National Immunisation Database will also have their records revised, and one may review their status online.

60 per cent of the population here would get vaccinated, according to polls commissioned by government agencies. A third said they were wary.

Mr Gan stated that to clarify the value of vaccination and to ensure its protection and effectiveness, the government will do more educational outreach in the community. He also advised the public to pay attention to reliable data sources as misleading statements about the vaccine have surfaced.

What are your thoughts? Will you take the injection when it’s offered to you?


Experts share what the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines in Singapore would mean for ‘normality’

Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine

On Dec 14, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) had approved the COVID-19 vaccine developed by United States pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and German firm BioNTech. The first shipment was also due to arrive in Singapore by the end of December.

Fast forward to a week after the statement; the long-awaited COVID-19 vaccines arrived yesterday (Dec 21) evening! Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung was there to receive the gift, and the vaccines were later to transported to SATS’ cold-chain facility for storage.

Mr Lee said that relevant task force handling the COVID-19 outbreak would announce details of the roll-out in due time. “It’s been a long and arduous year. I hope that this news will give Singaporeans cheer this festive season, and reason to be optimistic for 2021,” he added.

Returning to ‘normality’ will take time
Christmas crowds at VivoCity

Image Credits: The Straits Times

While we’re one of the first few countries to get COVID-19 vaccines, experts shed light on what this means for ‘normality’. It will most likely take months to return to ‘normality’ as Singapore builds herd immunity with the ongoing study of the effects of the vaccine.

Vice-dean of research at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Associate Professor Alex Cook suspects that the first few groups to receive vaccines will still need to keep to current measures. This includes wearing a mask and keeping to the permitted group size gatherings. This will continue until enough people receive the vaccine to achieve herd immunity.

Singapore possibly to be the last few countries to reach ‘normality’

Image Credits: CNA

President of the Asia Pacific Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infection Dr Paul Tambyah states that Singapore is likely to be among the final few countries in Southeast Asia to return to normal. This will also probably be months after the report of the last cases of COVID-19 in the world.

“If, and it is a big if, the vaccine is successfully rolled out all across the world and if it works, there is a good chance that the incidence of the disease may drop dramatically worldwide, and then the WHO (World Health Organization) can declare the pandemic over, and we can slowly get back to normalcy,” he mentioned.

No massive change in restrictions for months
people wearing masks in an office

Image Credits: Vulcan Post

Professor Dale Fisher, the senior consultant at NUH and Chair of the WHO Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network, shares that there will be no significant change in restrictions in Singapore for months. But as more receives the vaccines in 2021, and we slowly approach herd immunity, preventative measures may be eased.

More on establishing herd immunity
singaporeans in masks

Image Credits: TODAYonline

Assoc Prof Cook remarked that until enough people get the vaccine, we cannot protect our society as a whole. The mollifying of mask-wearing, social distancing, and closed borders can take place only when a critical mass of people receives the vaccine.

Dean of the NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health Teo Yik Ying highlights for us the objective of mass vaccination. The main aim is to achieve herd immunity to protect individuals from an insufficient number of people who remain vulnerable to infection.

“If there are enough people that have been vaccinated, then even if someone is infected, the vast majority of the people that this infected person interacts with will already be vaccinated and not be infected. This is why mass vaccination with an effective and safe vaccine remains a very powerful public health measure to protect against an infectious disease,” he added.

Assoc Prof Cook further explains that in the early stages, only those with the vaccine will be in safe hands. Once enough people have it, they would have direct protection. In turn, those without the vaccine will develop indirect protection because of the others in the population who have the vaccination.

Continuous study of the vaccine still in place
studying of vaccines in a lab

Image Credits: sciencemag.org

Infectious diseases expert Dr Leong Hoe Nam spotlights that experts have yet to identify the immune marker used to measure sufficient protection from COVID-19. “We aren’t sure if the immunity conferred by the vaccine is long-lasting and permanent,” he noted.

Experts also shared that though there is evidence that that the vaccine can prevent disease, more study is required to find out if the vaccine has protection against the transmission from the person who is vaccinated to another person.

According to Prof Teo, what we know for sure is that people who have the vaccine will unlikely showcase symptoms of COVID-19 infection, including severe complications. He also adds that Singapore will be performing post-vaccination monitoring. This will allow the authorities to modify measures according to the extent of protection the vaccination offers.

Prof Fisher also brings to light some concerns on whether the vaccines can prevent transmission from asymptomatic cases. There are also remaining questions on its effects on the elderly and immune-suppressed. At this point, more study is necessary.

With that said, we are aware that the vaccine works at least in the short term. “There is really no reason to not take the vaccine with our current knowledge,” he commented.


Here are 10 things you need to know about Pfizer’s and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines

COVID-19 vaccines

Just last week on Nov 9, Pfizer made known that its experimental COVID-19 vaccine was more than 90 per cent effective. Pfizer and German partner BioNTech are the first drugmakers to release such data. But fast forward to today, we have a new player in town and the name to note is Moderna. According to the company, its experimental vaccine is 94.5 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19.

With so much hype surrounding this topic, here are 10 things you need to know about Pfizer’s and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines.

Pfizer’s COVID-19 Vaccine

Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

Image Credits: Nikkei Asia

#1: More than 90 per cent effective

As we’ve briefly mentioned in the introduction, Pfizer’s vaccine is more than 90 per cent effective. This means that if 9 out of 10 people were to get the vaccine, they would attain immunity.

This is terrific news for many because previously, health experts have revealed that even a vaccine with an efficacy rating of between 60% to 70% would be a huge thing to rejoice for! Some governments were also ready to approve a vaccine if it only has a 50% efficacy rating. 

But now, Pfizer is raising the stakes with a possible vaccine that could break the virus chain. In fact, Britain’s health minister Matt Hancock mentioned on Nov 16, “We’ll be ready to roll (the Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine) out as soon as it comes, we’ll be ready from the first of December…, but more likely is that we may be able to start rolling it out before Christmas.”

#2: Uncertainty on the period of effectiveness

While Pfizer’s vaccine is more than 90 per cent effective, no one knows how long it will be useful for. In other words, we have no idea how long the immunity gained from the vaccine can last us. It could be days, months, or years. Looking on the bright side, maybe it could be forever?

Another unknown factor is its successfulness on the profile of COVID-19 patients. There is little or no evidence that the vaccine works on COVID-19 severe cases, such as people who require hospitalisation for the virus.

#3: Vaccinated people may still carry the disease
asians wearing masks at a train station

Image Credits: LA Times

Talking about uncertainty, there’s the variability that vaccinated people could still carry SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 and be infectious.

So even if one were to be injected with the vaccine and go about his or her day-to-day activities immune, he or she could still present a threat to others who aren’t vaccinated.

#4: Not a one-and-done deal

It will be delusional to think that it’s a one-shot all kill kind of super vaccine. A person will need at least two doses of the vaccine with a period of three weeks apart.

This could pose potential logistical and supply chain problems because supposedly everyone on earth requires that vaccine, then Pfizer will need to supply about 15 billion doses to meet the demand.

#5: Waiting time needed to get the vaccines

All good things must wait? Well, the economy is looking up for selected countries with the announcement of Pfizer’s initial trial results.

If approved, only 50 million doses would be available by the end of 2020. There’s also an estimate that only 1.3 billion quantities will be ready by the end of 2021. Mind you; there’s an estimate of 7.8 billion people in the world. With double doses needed, the supply vastly falls short.

Also, the need to store the vaccine at temperatures of -70°C or below poses a challenge for some countries, for example, in Asia, Africa, and Latin America who are already battling intense heat.

Moderna’s COVID-19 Vaccine

Moderna COVID-19 vaccine

Image Credits: The Guardian

#6: Has a 94.5 per cent efficacy rate

Based on an interim data from a late-stage trial, Moderna said on Nov 16 that its experimental vaccine is 94.5 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19. This makes them the second US drugmaker to report such outstanding results.

But it’s important to note that the announced rating came after studying only 95 participants out of a total of 30,000 participants. While a little hope keeps the world going, it’s essential to wait for the updated results from the ongoing phase three trial. The outcome can overturn within a few days.

#7: At least two doses of the vaccine needed

If you’ve read the article in full, you would have known that Moderna’s vaccine is similar to Pfizer’s in terms of the doses needed. There will be a few weeks of waiting time required between the first and second shot.

A news report has it that after taking the second dose, a notable proportion of volunteers went through severe aches and pains. To be exact, 10 per cent experienced fatigue that interfered with their daily activities, while another 9 per cent had severe body aches. In response, Moderna feedback that the symptoms were short-lived.

#8: Questions about safety linger
man taking a vaccine

Image Credits: BBC News

Similar to Pfizer’s, Moderna’s vaccine may have potential red flags. Apart from the side effects, as stated above, the public is not yet sure if there are other more severe consequences. For example, there is one possibility that it might cause cancer in the future.

BBC News reported that there are no significant safety concerns at the moment but highlights that nothing is 100% safe. But having said that, the public has nothing to worry about as Moderna can only apply for the US emergency use authorisation (EUA) after a two-month follow-up safety data.

#9: Does not require extreme cold storage

Compared to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine which needs to thrive at extremely low temperatures, Moderna’s can be stored at just -20°C during shipping.

In terms of shipping logistics and distribution, Moderna’s vaccine is much more well-positioned. Once it reaches a distribution centre, the vaccine can be defrosted and stored for up to 30 days in a refrigerator at only 2°C to 8°C. Thus, overcoming one of the most significant limitations of Pfizer’s.

#10: Distribution may start as soon as next month

If the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) grants Moderna EUA for the vaccine, Americans would probably be in line to get their first vaccination by December. At the time of writing, Pfizer has launched a pilot delivery programme for its experimental COVID-19 vaccine in New Mexico, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Texas.

However, even if Moderna has no green light, at least 20 million doses will still be available in December. This means that about 10 million people, most likely front-line healthcare workers, will receive the vaccine shots.

Vaccines at a glance

Pfizer vs Moderna COVID-19 vaccines

Image Credits: BBC News