SINGAPORE: Activities that involve large numbers of people who are likely to come into close contact for prolonged periods of time “will take more time” to resume, said Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong on Monday (Jun 15), as the multi-ministry taskforce announced the second phase of Singapore's reopening.
Such activities and settings are potential “super spreader" events, said Mr Wong.
They include religious services, large cultural venues such as museums and libraries, large-scale events such as concerts and exhibitions, as well as entertainment venues such as bars, nightclubs, karaoke outlets, cinemas, theatres. They also include indoor and outdoor attractions, he said.
The multi-ministry taskforce announced at a press conference on Monday that most activities - including retail businesses, dining-in at food and beverage outlets, tuition and personal health and wellness services - will be allowed to resume after 11.59pm on Jun 18, subject to safe-distancing measures.
READ: COVID-19: Phase 2 of reopening to start from Jun 19, social gatherings of up to five people allowed
“Overseas and local experience has shown that these settings can result in large clusters of infections, which we have to avoid,” said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong at the press conference.
“We are engaging these businesses and organisations on their safe management measures and advising them on the steps to take to be able to open later safely,” he added.
Mr Wong also said that the activities that are not allowed to resume at the start of Phase 2 will be able to "resume progressively over time".
Government agencies will advise on the approval processes and timelines for resumption at a later date “depending on the ability and readiness of the organisation to implement these measures”, said the task force in a separate press release.
Responding to questions on the reopening time frame for Phase 2 and the criteria for Singapore to transition to Phase 3, Mr Wong said that there are "many parameters" that can be "progressively eased over a period of time".
"Potentially when they (large activities and venues) start to reopen, this could happen in a few weeks time ... but with strict limits in terms of the capacity of the number of people who can enter that venue," he added.
Over time, the capacity limits will be increased if the situation remains stable, said Mr Wong. He added that this process of monitoring the situation and then easing or tightening restrictions accordingly is expected to "continue for months" before Phase 3.
SCHOOL AND WORKPLACES
Students from all levels will return to school every day from Jun 29, with more details to come from the Ministry of Education this week, said the task force in a separate press release.
Institutes of Higher Learning, which have been conducting most lessons online, will gradually increase the number of students back on campus for face-to-face learning.
For workplaces, the current safe management measures will continue to apply, and employers must ensure that there are no social gatherings between employees and that safe distancing of at least one metre is maintained at all times, said the task force.
FUNERALS AND WEDDINGS
As activities resume, individuals should maintain safe distancing of at least 1m at all times, said Mr Gan. With small-group social gatherings of up to five persons allowed to resume, the 1m requirement will instead be enforced between groups, he added.
Apart from the safe management principles, specific rules will apply to events such as weddings and funerals, said Mr Wong.
“Added flexibility” will be given for weddings and up to 10 people, excluding the solemniser, will be allowed for solemnisations at home or at the Registry of Marriages or Registry of Muslim Marriages, said the task force.
At other venues, weddings may take place with up to 20 people excluding the solemniser, subject to the venue’s capacity limit based on safe management principles.
Similarly, up to 20 people may be present at any one time for wakes and funerals.
MORE COMMUNITY CASES EXPECTED
With the activities resuming in Phase 2, the number of close contacts between individuals will increase, said Mr Gan.
“We therefore expect to see more new community cases with more testing. We will also expect to see more cases being detected proactively to keep the number of new cases under control, and prevent large clusters,” he added.
“To keep the number of new cases under control, it is critical that we continue to exercise caution. All of us must adhere to safe management principles, and we should avoid businesses or activities that fail to comply,” said the task force in the press release.
Calling on individuals to “practise social responsibility” with good personal hygiene and safe distancing measures, the task force urged the public to wash their hands regularly, wear a mask out and see a doctor when unwell.
They should also check-in and check-out on SafeEntry when required, and download and install the TraceTogether app on their phones, it added.
Individuals should protect themselves and their families by keeping their daily number of contacts small and “preferably limited to a regular circle of close contacts”, said the task force.
Seniors should continue to exercise extra caution and stay at home “as much as possible” as they are especially vulnerable, it added.
“This way, our efforts over the last two months will not be wasted. And we can safely move towards Phase 2, and look forward to Phase 3 to come in time to come,” said Mr Gan.
Mr Wong asked the public to be "responsible in undertaking the activities that are permitted under Phase 2".
“Do not treat Phase 2 as a signal that we can all relax, we can all let our guard down, and we can now go out and do all our favourite activities,” said Mr Wong.
“If we use the space and the activities that we now can undertake, if we take that responsibility, continue to, by all means go out, but limit the number of contacts that we have to a small group, and take all the necessary measures,” he added.