Singapore workers face a new mandate

Although only 4% of the workforce in Singapore is not vaccinated against covid-19, the government announced on Saturday that a vaccine or test mandate would take effect in January for virtually all public sector workers. and private.

Those who refuse vaccinations will have to pay for a daily test and receive a negative result before returning to the workplace.

The Health Ministry’s announcement comes as the country experiences its worst wave of infections to date.

“There is still no sign of a drop in cases,” Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Wednesday, when the country reported 18 new deaths, its highest number in a single day since the start of the pandemic. Singapore reported a record 3,994 daily cases on Tuesday.

The government has maintained some of the world’s toughest restrictions on the transmission of covid. He announced in June that he would abandon his zero covid strategy – a change that has been made possible by the country’s high vaccination rate. About 82% of the population was fully vaccinated on Friday.

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Only those who are fully vaccinated, who have recovered from covid in the past 270 days, who are pregnant or who are not medically eligible for vaccines will be allowed to work in person without daily testing, the Department of Health reported. .

About 96% of Singapore’s workforce has been fully vaccinated, Commerce Minister Gan Kim Yong said at a press conference on Saturday. About 113,000 workers still have not been vaccinated, he said, and more than 10% were older workers.

“We would like to ask employers for help in encouraging their unvaccinated employees to get vaccinated as soon as possible,” he said.

Even though Singapore has one of the best vaccination rates in the world, its number of new coronavirus cases has been higher than ever in recent weeks, with two-thirds of Singapore’s intensive care capacity being used.

“In the current situation, we face a considerable risk that the health care system will be overwhelmed,” Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said on Wednesday.

Singapore’s cautious approach to the pandemic contrasts with that of the United States and Europe, where fewer restrictions are placed on meeting friends, going to parties, playing sports or dining out. However, vaccination mandates are becoming more common in these countries – Italy last week adopted sweeping workplace vaccination rules.

Singapore only allows one social gathering of no more than two people per day and prohibits unvaccinated people from dining or going to cafes unless they have been tested within the previous 24 hours.

Unvaccinated people in Austria could face further lockdown restrictions if the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said on Friday evening.

Austrian restrictions in sight

The news came after a Friday night meeting between Schallenberg and state leaders to discuss their response to the rapidly rising number of cases.

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“The pandemic is not yet in the rearview mirror,” Schallenberg said. “We are on the verge of falling into an unvaccinated pandemic. “

Schallenberg announced that if the number of covid patients in intensive care units reaches 500, or 25% of the country’s total intensive care capacity, entry into businesses such as restaurants and hotels will be limited to those who are vaccinated or cured of the virus.

If the number reaches 600, or a third of the total capacity of intensive care, the government plans to impose restrictions on unvaccinated people. In this case, they would only be allowed to leave their homes for specific reasons.

Currently, the number of covid patients in intensive care units stands at 220.

In the past week, Austria reported 20,408 new cases of the virus, according to health officials, bringing the 7-day average to 228.5 per 100,000 population. A week earlier, that figure was 152.5 per 100,000 inhabitants.

Although the Austrian government has encouraged citizens to get vaccinated, the effort has slowed in recent months. Some 65.4% of the total population have received a dose of the vaccine and 62.2% are fully vaccinated.

Combination of strokes encouraged

France on Friday recommended people get vaccinated against covid-19 and influenza during the same visit to vaccination clinics, spurring one of its largest winter vaccination campaigns to date.

The campaign aims to prevent the continuation of the covid pandemic and the emergence of influenza cases from combining to overwhelm the country’s medical system, the health ministry said.

As covid measures reduced flu cases and hospitalizations in 2020, health experts have warned there could be an upsurge this winter, as immunity has waned after months of social distancing and l loosening of covid restrictions.

Experts said it was safe to get the flu shot and a covid-19 vaccine at the same time. People eligible for a covid booster dose in France can receive it in one arm and get a flu shot in the other on the same day. France has offered reminders to people over 65, pregnant women, people with certain co-morbidities and recipients of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

French Health Minister Olivier Veran launched a televised appeal on Friday urging people to get vaccinated at the same appointment.

“Already, 10 million doses are available in pharmacies, priority for the most vulnerable people,” he said. “This vaccination can be done at the same time as the one against covid.”

The new effort is expected to strengthen the campaign for covid vaccines, in addition to encouraging those at risk to get vaccinated. So far, 68% of French people are fully vaccinated.

Health officials in other countries have also urged people to get vaccinated against covid-19 and the flu.

The UK government launched a nationwide advertising campaign on billboards, radio stations, TV channels and social media on Friday urging people to get vaccinated.

Britain started offering covid booster shots last month to people aged 50 and over, health and social service workers and others with health conditions that put them at risk of a higher risk of serious illness.

U.S. state and city health departments have also encouraged people to get vaccinated against both viral diseases at the same time.

Information for this article was provided by John Yoon of the New York Times and Associated Press staff.