Singapore:Vaccination status checks begin at libraries as part of extended COVID measures

Lines formed outside libraries on Dec. 1 — the first day that vaccination-differentiated safe management measures kicked in at these locations.

When The Straits Times visited Bishan Public Library at 10 a.m., a counter had been set up at the entrance for staff to check the inoculation status of patrons.

A line of 20 visitors had formed, with most in line having already scanned the QR codes outside the library.

This meant that once the library opened at 10 a.m., they were able to present their SafeEntry green passes to staff showing that they are fully vaccinated or have a cleared COVID-19 test status.

On Nov. 20, a multi-ministry task force on COVID-19 announced the expansion of vaccination-differentiated safe management measures to more venues to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus.

Only fully inoculated individuals, recovered COVID-19 patients, those who are medically ineligible or children aged 12 and below are allowed in settings where such measures apply.

One of the first patrons in line at the Bishan library was a housewife, who wanted to be known only as Mrs. Chan, and her 11-year-old daughter Binnie.

When asked about the new rules and how they affect her child who is unable to be vaccinated as she is under 12, Mrs. Chan said: “I usually do a group check-in for my daughter. I’m not sure if they will have further checks at the library but we’ve brought along her ez-link card just in case.”

The card indicates her year of birth.

Binnie, a Primary 5 pupil at Kuo Chuan Presbyterian Primary School, has been visiting the library with her mother three to four times a week since she was a 2-year-old.

Mrs. Chan said: “The school holidays started. With COVID-19, we’ve been staying home most of the time so it’s good she can go to the library and read.”

Retired tech consultant Chua Ming Soo, 77, said he feels reassured by the rollout of the new measures.

Mr. Chua, who was reading Chinese-language papers at the multimedia station at the Toa Payoh Public Library, said: “At a library, people touch everything, from the elevator buttons to the newspapers. It’s not safe for us if those who are unvaccinated are allowed in.

“Now there is omicron, it’s even more dangerous. Nobody knows how severe the symptoms [for the new variant] are,” he added.

For the month of December, unvaccinated individuals will still be able to visit libraries but need to show a negative pre-event test result.

But from Jan. 1, this will cease.

This means that those who are unvaccinated can borrow books only by making a reservation and collecting their items at standalone and regional libraries.

The National Library Board said that the bookdrops and reservation lockers are located outside the libraries and are accessible without entry.