People cross a road, amidst the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Singapore November 3, 2021. REUTERS/Caroline Chia
Singapore will no longer pay the Covid-19 medical bills for people “unvaccinated by choice”, the government said, as the country grapples with a surge in cases.
The government currently covers the full Covid medical costs for all Singaporeans, as well as permanent residents and long-term visa holders, unless they test positive soon after returning home from overseas.
However from 8 December, the government said it will “begin charging Covid-19 patients who are unvaccinated by choice”.
It said unvaccinated people “make up a sizeable majority of those who require intensive in-patient care and disproportionately contribute to the strain on our healthcare resources”.
Covid-related medical bills will still be paid for people who aren’t eligible for a vaccine. The government will also foot the bill for individuals who are partially vaccinated until 31 December, giving them time to get a second dose.
People above 70 years old wait in an observation area after getting a dose of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at a vaccination center in Singapore January 27, 2021. REUTERS/Edgar Su
Singapore has among the highest coverage rates in the world, with 85% of the eligible population fully vaccinated.
Yet the city state is struggling with rising Covid infections and last month warned its healthcare system was at risk of being “overwhelmed” by surging cases. It came a day after the country expanded quarantine-free travel as part of a shift in its approach to dealing with the pandemic.
The prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, previously said the global business hub could not remain closed indefinitely, and Singapore has moved from a zero-tolerance strategy with lockdowns and closed borders to living with Covid-19.
A spike in infections after the relaxation of some restrictions prompted the island to pause further reopening in late October. Social curbs were extended for around a month in order to contain the spread of Covid and ease the pressure on the healthcare system.
On 8 November, the country reported 2,470 new cases and 14 deaths. The ministry of heath said 67 Covid cases were critically ill in intensive care.