The Singaporean government said on Thursday that it would ease some social restrictions after nearly a month of tough measures to contain a coronavirus outbreak fueled in part by the Delta variant, first detected in India.
The city-state also said that it would expand its vaccination campaign, allowing Singaporeans ages 12 and older to register for shots beginning on Friday and extending eligibility to the rest of the population in the coming months.
The announcement came a day after the nation of 5.7 million recorded just two new coronavirus cases, the lowest number in months. In mid-May, after an outbreak at Singapore’s international airport led to dozens of infections, the government banned dining in restaurants and gatherings of more than two people.
“We have slowed down the chains of transmission and reduced the number of community cases, and are now in a position to ease the tightened measures,” the Health Ministry said in a statement on Thursday.
Beginning on Monday, people will be allowed to gather in groups of up to five, and restaurants and gyms will be permitted to reopen to customers the following week if cases remain low, the ministry said.
About a third of Singaporeans are fully vaccinated, one of the highest rates in Asia, but the country has kept cases low by requiring masks, strictly tracing contacts and eliminating most overseas travel. Officials have said that lifting further restrictions will depend on many more people getting vaccinated.
In other news around the globe:
Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, will restrict access to shopping malls, restaurants, cafes and other public places to those who have been vaccinated against the coronavirus or who have recently tested negative, starting on Tuesday, Reuters reported. The new rules were announced late on Wednesday and come as the United Arab Emirates has seen daily cases rise during the past three weeks. The restrictions will also apply to gyms, hotels, public parks, beaches, swimming pools, entertainment centers, cinemas, and museums, Abu Dhabi’s media office said.
Germany’s vaccination confirmation app was introduced on Thursday, nearly half a year after inoculations started there. The app, called CovPass, will present a simple QR code confirming that the owner is fully vaccinated. Starting on Monday, doctors and pharmacies will be able to transcribe the usually handwritten entries from paper vaccine booklets into the digital app.
After accusations of fraud at its rapid virus-testing centers, the Health Ministry in Germany announced tougher licensing rules and more spot checks. Public sector health insurers are being tasked with keeping a close eye on the number of tests claimed and carrying out spot checks if the numbers seem off. The government’s per-test payout will also be significantly reduced, to a maximum of 12.50 euros, or about $15, from €18.
David Hasselhoff called for people to roll up their sleeves for the vaccine in an advertisement for Germany’s inoculation campaign. “I’ve found freedom in vaccination,” the former “Baywatch” star said in the clip, a reference to his 1989 version of the song “Looking for Freedom,” which became a smash success in Germany as the Berlin Wall fell and which he performed atop the Wall on New Year’s Eve that year. German health authorities believe that as much as 75 percent of the population will eventually get vaccinated.
Christopher F. Schuetze contributed reporting.