The government won’t call it that, of course. They are simply barring the unvaccinated from returning to the workplace, even with a negative pre-event test, starting 15 January. Partially vaccinated workers have until 31 January to complete their vaccination regimen. Employees who cannot work from home risk being placed on no-pay leave or being fired outright. The government justifies this by claiming it is to ‘protect the unvaccinated’ and ‘create safer workplaces’.
Instead of passing a law through Parliament, where it can be scrutinized and debated, the Ministry of Manpower sent down an ‘advisory’ at 11pm on 26 December informing the public of these new measures.
In December 2020, Professor Tan Chorh Chuan, chief scientist at the Ministry of Health, claimed that 80% of the population will need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity. Presently, 96% of Singapore’s eligible population is fully vaccinated. Singapore has exceeded this target—but restrictions on the unvaccinated have only grown tighter.
What about the vaccinated? The fully vaccinated were once allowed to use the vaccine travel lanes to travel overseas. New VTL ticket sales have now been frozen. Mask mandates are still in force. Limits on social gatherings and household visits remain. Social distancing is still required. Life has not returned to normal. The government has merely lifted some restrictions partway for the vaccinated, and can re-impose them anytime it wishes.
Mass compliance will not lead to freedom. Everywhere in the world, mass compliance merely brought more lockdowns, more mandates, more restrictions.
The rise of Omicron isn’t going to change things. The freezing of ticket sales is just a precursor. Given its highly contagious nature and its ability to evade vaccines, Singapore is likely to once again see an explosion of Covid cases in the near future, on par with Europe, North America, and everywhere else that Omicron has arrived. Should this happen, I expect the government to call for more vaccinations, more boosters, and more restrictions.
The government is already hinting that it will revise the definition of ‘fully vaccinated’ to include the booster shot—specifically, the mRNA vaccine. The government already requires those who choose the Sinovac vaccine to take three doses before they are deemed fully vaccinated—and ‘encourages’ them to take the mRNA vaccine to complete their regimen. With this report that the third Sinovac vaccine fails to protect against Omicron, it may be likely that Sinovac will eventually be withdrawn, or at least demoted to a vaccine of last resort. The government is also offering booster shots to those aged between 50 and 59, and those above 18 are ‘recommended’ to receive the booster five months after the second dose.
The UK is planning to offer boosters three months after the second dose, and is already preparing the public for a fourth dose. Data from Denmark suggests that vaccine efficacy against Omicron drops off after 90 days. While Moderna and Pfizer promise they can produce a vaccine tailored for Omicron by early 2022, there is no guarantee that this new vaccine will remain effective against the next variant. In the same vein, there is no reason to think the Singapore government will stick to the five-month interval between the second shot and the booster.
Only a tiny minority of Singaporeans remain unvaccinated, yet that isn’t enough for the government. They say the vaccine is voluntary, but they will impose penalties on those who do not make the choice they want. Singapore has approved vaccination for children aged 5 and older. As with adults, it is ‘voluntary’, but I won’t be surprised if the government will soon impose penalties for noncompliance. When the new Covid vaccine policy comes into effect, I expect a large section of the population to be reduced to the status of partially vaccinated. As of time of writing, only 36% of the population has received booster shots. Today’s fully vaccinated will become tomorrow’s pariahs.
The hospitalization risk of Omicron is 40 to 45% lower than Delta, according to Imperial College London. South Africa has seen a decoupling between new infections and ICU admissions and deaths. Presently, with the Delta variant, only 1.3% of patients in Singapore develop severe illness. The risk of overwhelming Singapore’s medical capacity, the official explanation for the previous round of Covid restrictions, is therefore likely to be markedly reduced. Only 0.2% of Covid patients passed away from the disease, and per the CDC, 94% of Covid deaths tend to be the elderly and those with multiple comorbidities. People outside the at-risk demographic have little to fear from the new variant. The Covid case fatality rate of children up to 19 years old in Singapore is 0. Omicron is so mild that the current treatment protocol is home-based recovery and self-testing in lieu of quarantine, in line with the other variants. Any unvaccinated person who catches the virus is likely to be surrounded by vaccinated people, who are supposedly protected against the virus, which again further reduces any threat to public health.
Yet the government continues to push mass vaccination and to enforce vaccine discrimination to ‘protect the unvaccinated’ and ensure a ‘safer workplace’.
The de facto mandate has come. What can you do?
Do not hope for the Opposition to speak up for you. The few Opposition politicians who have spoken up have produced limited impact on government policy.
Do not hope for the Singapore legal community to defend you of their own accord. With rare exceptions, they have remained silent.
Do not hope for the medical community to save you. Their silence is resounding.
Do not hope for any institution to save you.
You must save yourself.
You bear all the risks of vaccination. The Establishment bears none of the responsibility. The government has the Vaccine Injury Financial Assistance Programme, but as Yvonne Lian recounts, securing a successful claim is far from guaranteed. You must assume that if you are injured or die after taking the vaccine, you will not be compensated. Likewise, neither your employer nor healthcare provider will take responsibility for you or your dependents.
Vaccination should be—must be—a personal choice. Only you can decide whether you want to take the vaccine or not. No one else.
For weeks, I’ve been warning readers to get off the system. If you choose to remain unvaccinated and you haven’t already developed a side gig, you are running out of time.
If your employer threatens to fire you, make them fire you. If you need your job, do everything in your power to retain employment—negotiations, legal representation, working from home—but do not give up. You still have time to turn things around. Unless you are confident you can secure another job, in which case you should walk away immediately. They have shown that they do not care about you as a sovereign human being, with autonomy over your life, or else are unable to accommodate you.
If you can’t hold on to your job and will not vaccinate, you need to pivot. Fast. Identify out what jobs you can do from home, or else start an online business. There is no longer any reason to delay. Identify your strengths, see how you can solve a problem for people, then get to it.
Lim Tean of Carson Law Chambers has launched a legal campaign to overturn two critical Covid directives: allowing employers to fire the unvaccinated, and requiring the unvaccinated to cover their own hospitalisation fees. TR Emeritus is launching a class action against the Multi-Ministry Task Force in a bid to challenge Singapore’s Covid vaccine discrimination policies. They are going to need your support.
You may feel alone. You may feel that you are only one person, surrounded by people who demand that you make the choice they want you to make. The reality is, there are 52,000 people in the same boat as you. That’s more than enough to create a parallel economy, more so if you link up with others who are willing to help you.
You need to create options for yourself. Connect with likeminded people. You can start with Healing the Divide. Start your own Internet businesses, and support those who do not discriminate against the unvaccinated. SG Connect Concerned Parents can help with that. Develop income streams that the Covid restrictions cannot touch.
In the gravest extreme, despite your best efforts, if you feel no choice but to take the vaccine, then keep this in mind:
Never forget what they made you do.
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