SINGAPORE: People who repeatedly flout the stricter safe-distancing measures as part of a “circuit breaker” to curb the spread of COVID-19 will face a fine or be charged in court.
These measures include a ban on dining in, as well as on social gatherings in public or private areas.
READ: COVID-19: Social gatherings of any size in both private and public spaces prohibited under new Bill
First-time offenders will get a stern written warning. Anyone who commits a second offence will be fined S$300, while a third offence will lead to the person being charged in court.
The Government will be “stepping up on enforcement” of the measures, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli wrote on Facebook on Thursday (Apr 9).
“From today, our enforcement officers will immediately take down the particulars of anyone found to be in breach of elevated safe distancing measures,” he said.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday reiterated calls for people to stay at home.
“We are on the third day of our ‘circuit breaker', but still far too many public gatherings are happening. The number of new COVID-19 cases is increasing sharply, and we must comply with the stay home measures very strictly,” Mr Lee wrote on Facebook.
“If your loved ones do not understand how serious this is, please try hard to help them understand,” he added.
“The more we take liberties with the stay home measures, the longer these painful measures will have to last. I know we all want to go back to normalcy, but this can only happen if we take things seriously.”
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said in a Facebook post on Thursday afternoon that many Singaporeans "understand the situation" and have adjusted their daily routines because of the measures.
But he added that "some are blatantly disregarding the measures".
The number of COVID-19 cases has been climbing over the past week, he said, adding that this was partly due to clusters in worker dormitories and that additional measures have been put in place there.
"But there are still new cases in the wider community. So it is very critical that each and every one of us observes the stricter safe distancing measures," Mr Heng said.
"It is not easy to change our daily routines and habits, but we must. And we must do our best to fight this virus."
Mr Masagos echoed the Prime Minister’s and Deputy Prime Minister's comments and said there are many people who are not taking the COVID-19 situation seriously.
“Some are even uncooperative, insisting on dining in at eating places, not maintaining a safe distance when queuing in markets, and gathering in parks to eat or exercise together,” he added.
“Remind your family members, especially the elderly, to stay at home. They are the most vulnerable, and we need to protect them. Remind also the young, who are out of school during this period, to meet their friends online, and not gather in person.
“Young or old – none of us are immune.”
On Thursday evening, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said more than 2,500 enforcement officers will be "going all out" to enforce the rules "very strictly".
10,000 ADVISORIES IN FIRST 2 DAYS
On Wednesday – the second day of the circuit breaker – more than 3,000 written advisories were issued to people flouting the rules. Over the first two days, about 10,000 written advisories were handed out.
The majority of these were at hawker centres, markets and across Housing and Development Board (HDB) public spaces.
To tackle the issue, HDB is working with town councils to close public spaces such as playgrounds, sports courts and void deck seating areas, said the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources.
Crowd management measures will be expanded to cover around half of all markets in Singapore by Friday to control the spread of COVID-19, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said in a news release on Wednesday.
Fifteen markets have put in crowd management measures like controlled entry and exit points as of Wednesday. These measures will now be rolled out to include 25 other markets which are “relatively popular and would attract crowds especially on weekends”, NEA said.
WOMAN INSISTED ON DINING IN
In one incident on Wednesday, NEA said its enforcement officers observed a woman eating at a hawker centre at Block 724, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 6. She had earlier bought food from a stall there.
This was before the stricter stance against offenders was announced on Thursday.
NEA said the woman continued to eat despite being advised to leave, adding that officers then issued her a stern written warning.
"During this time, no one should gather or loiter at the dining areas of our hawker centres," the agency stated.
"Members of the public are strongly advised to comply with all safe distancing measures in public spaces currently in place."