SINGAPORE: Phase 2 of the country's reopening will start after Jun 18, 11.59pm, the COVID-19 multi-ministry task force announced on Monday (Jun 15).
The task force has reassessed the situation and made the decision, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said in a media statement.
“Community infection rates have remained generally stable despite the increase in workplace activity in Phase 1 of reopening. The incidence of cases in migrant worker dormitories has also declined, and there are no new large clusters emerging,” MOH said.
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Singapore exited a two-month-long "circuit breaker" designed to limit the spread of COVID-19 on Jun 1. The multi-ministry task force said at the time that Singapore would reopen in three phases, outlining what might be allowed under each phase.
On Monday, the authorities said Phase 2 will involve the resumption of “most activities”, subject to safe distancing principles.
Speaking at a press conference, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong also gave the assurance that most of the cases were detected as a result of active screening of workers, as well as contacts.
The incidence of cases in migrant worker dormitories has also declined, and under control, he said, adding that there are so far no indications of new large clusters emerging. However, he cautioned against taking this situation for granted.
"On one hand, we want to allow economic and community activities to resume, while on the other hand, we must continue to keep infection under control. This is a very delicate balance we have to strike, and to succeed, we will need the collective effort of every Singaporean to be socially responsible."
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WHAT WILL RESUME OR OPEN IN PHASE 2?
- Small-group social gatherings of up to any five people can resume. Within the home, households may receive up to five visitors at any one time.
- Retail businesses may reopen their physical outlets.
- Food and beverage dine-in will be allowed, with up to five people allowed to sit together. Tables must be spaced one metre apart. Outlets will have to cease liquor sales and consumption at 10.30pm. Live music, as well as television and video screenings will not be allowed in all F&B outlets at this stage.
- Tuition and other private enrichment classes can resume, with the exception of singing or voice training classes.
- Personal health and wellness, and home-based services will be allowed to resume.
- Registered clubs and societies will be allowed to operate at their registered premises.
- All other healthcare services, including eldercare services in the community, individual health screenings will resume.
- Aesthetic services will resume.
- Face-to-face visitations at residential facilities for the elderly, including nursing homes, welfare homes, sheltered homes and adult disability homes, will resume.
- Playgrounds, beaches, lawns and fields, stadia, swimming complexes, sports halls, hard courts, gyms, fitness studios, bowling centres and function rooms will open. This also applies to similar facilities in private settings such as condominiums and clubs.
- Larger public venues with high human traffic such as malls and large standalone retail outlets will be subject to capacity limits, and operators will be required to prevent crowds or long queues from building up within and in the immediate vicinity of their premises.
SAFE DISTANCING MEASURES A DEFAULT
As a default, measures should be put in place to ensure that individuals maintain safe distancing of at least one metre at all times, MOH said.
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“Where not feasible or practical to apply 1m safe distancing between individuals, this 1m requirement can instead be enforced between groups, with each group made up of not more than five persons, and with no mixing between groups," an MOH spokesperson said.
Other safe management measures should also be in place, she added.
The complete list of businesses that are allowed to operate can be found on the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s website. Businesses in this list do not need to apply for an exemption before resuming operations.
However, they are required to submit the number of workers who are working on-site via the GoBusiness portal within two weeks of the date of resumption of on-site operations.
“In the interest of reducing physical contact between individuals, telecommuting must remain the default for all businesses where feasible,” MOH said.
In settings run by permitted businesses, such as for F&B dining in or classes where individuals come together for activities, the 1m safe distancing requirement may be waived only if each group is made up of not more than five persons, and subject to overall safe management measures as indicated earlier, the spokesperson added.
Further guidance for various sectors will be provided by the relevant agencies in the coming days, leading up to the start of Phase 2, MOH said.
Should they be unable to meet safe management principles, businesses and organisations can engage relevant agencies to seek approval for alternative safe distancing measures, MOH said.
“Such businesses and activities should only open when they are ready. Businesses and organisations found to be flouting safe management principles may be required to close,” MOH added.
In Phase 2, the authorities’ goal is to ensure that efforts taken during the circuit breaker period and Phase 1 of reopening are sustained, MOH said.
The ministry added: “By limiting close contact among individuals, while maintaining hygiene and safe management principles, we will be able to resume more activities without substantially raising the risk of new clusters of infections.”
Co-chair of the multi-ministry task force, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said that Phase 2 should not be treated as a signal that "we can relax, we can all let our guard down".
"I think if we were to take that kind of a mindset and attitude, it will be very easy for Phase 2 to end up with a surge in cases and potentially down the road, the likelihood of having to reintroduce restrictions."
Mr Gan said that the scope for Phase 2 opening is wide, and therefore it is very difficult and challenging to try to prescribe rules and regulations for every possible scenario and setting.
"I'm sure, even as we draw up the rules, people will be thinking of how to get around the rules," he said.
"You can fool the rules but you cannot fool the virus. If you violate the rules, the virus will get to you. The purpose and objective of the rules and regulations is to protect you and not just to penalise you," he said.
Under Phase 1, some activities that have been allowed include visiting parents and places of worship with restrictions. Hairdressers and barbers have also been allowed to open and provide their whole range of services. Pre-schools gradually reopened and a system was created to allow students to return to school.
Last month, the authorities said Phase 2 would involve the gradual reopening of more firms and services with safe management measures in place.
At the time, the authorities said that reaching the next phase could take multiple steps, depending on how the situation evolves. Mr Wong said last month that if infection rates remain low and stable, the authorities would decide by the middle of June whether or not they want to take the next step to Phase 2.
By Phase 3, social, cultural, religious and business gatherings or events should be able to resume, although gathering sizes would still have to be limited in order to prevent large clusters from arising.