The Singapore government on Wednesday started inoculating people in the city-state with Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccination, the first country in Asia to do so.

As earlier planned, the Health Ministry said health care workers received the first shots at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases on Wednesday morning, with the first being Sarah Lim, 46, a senior staff nurse who carries out screenings for suspected coronavirus infections at the center.

More than 30 personnel from the NCID were expected to be vaccinated today.

Following health care personnel, other front line workers and the elderly are expected to be next in line, followed by the rest of the population, the government said.

"We aim to complete our coverage by the end of next year," Health Minister Gan Kim Yong told reporters during a visit to the NCID earlier in the day.

The government has said it will make the vaccinations available for free to everyone who meets the minimum age requirements in its population of 5.7 million, including permanent residents and long-term pass holders, but getting inoculated will be voluntary.

"While vaccinations will remain voluntary, we do want to strongly encourage Singaporeans to get vaccinated," Gan said.

Singapore received its first batch of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Dec. 21, becoming the first country in Asia to receive the shots.

The government has also inked deals with American biotechnology firm Moderna and China's Sinovac to purchase their vaccines, government officials said.

Singapore this week entered the third phase of its plans to gradually lift the restrictions it had imposed in a semi-lockdown that began in April this year to curb the spread of the virus, including raising the number of people allowed to dine together from just five to eight and for 250 people to gather at places of worship.

Singapore has reported just over 58,000 coronavirus infection cases and 29 deaths.