Vaccines are a national priority, but not “silver bullets” for reopening, says the Singapore minister

SINGAPORE – Singapore needs a “range of measures” beyond Covid vaccinations to open up its economy and allow international travel, said S Iswaran, the country’s minister of communications and information.

Some of these measures could include testing for Covid-19, he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Tuesday at the World Economic Forum’s Global Technology Governance Summit.

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

He said such solutions are important in the future, “whether they open up the economy further” or enable cross-border activities or travel, Iswaran said.

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

Suhaimi Abdullah | Getty Images News | Getty Images

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

“It’s going to be more of an evolutionary than a revolutionary process,” he said.

That should be the case worldwide, he added. “The way we are going to do it … will be measured and calibrated to enable cross-border flows of people.”

Digital passport

We see that ultimately you need an effective vaccination program and then you need to develop mutual recognition of those vaccination programs.

S Iswaran

Singapore Minister for Communication and Information

Iswaran said vaccination records are open to interpretation and “maybe even misinterpretation”.

“The way we see it, ultimately you need an effective vaccination program, and then we need to develop mutual recognition of those vaccination programs,” he told CNBC.

This needs to be done bilaterally and multilaterally so that countries can remember to open their borders, he added.

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

According to the Ministry of Health, transmission in the Singapore community has been low and has stabilized at around two cases per week over the past two weeks.

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. Around 375,605 people are fully vaccinated.

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