SINGAPORE: Even as more COVID-19 safety restrictions are eased and the number of community cases remains low, most events should continue to remain virtual for now, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong on Thursday (Aug 6).
These include large gatherings, as well as the festivities for national and community occasions, he said.
“This does not mean that we can no longer celebrate these occasions but that we will need to find new ways to do so,” added Mr Gan, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force tackling the pandemic.
While the number of cases in the community remains low, people must continue to be vigilant, he said, adding that many people are "anxious" to resume some activities.
“But we must balance that with the risk of transmission, learning from the experience of many countries that have seen a second wave, or some, even a third wave, after restrictions are lifted,” Mr Gan said.
The task force has taken a "cautious approach" towards the easing of restrictions, but recognises the need for people to commemorate “key milestones in life”, he added.
READ: COVID-19 restrictions to further ease for weddings, funerals from Aug 4; more people allowed to attend
Last week, the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced further easing of restrictions at two "key life events", namely weddings and wakes or funerals, from Aug 4.
Up to 50 people will be allowed to attend wedding solemnisations - including the couple, and excluding the solemniser and vendors - up from the 20 people previously allowed.
"The list of places where wedding receptions can be held is being gradually expanded to include more venues," said MOH on Thursday.
"For now, wedding receptions are allowed only in controlled venues where safe management measures can be better implemented and enforced, such as restaurants, hotels, and public and private function rooms."
More family members and friends will also be allowed to pay their last respects at wakes and funerals at any one time, with the limit raised to 30 people from 20 people.
Seventh Lunar Month prayers and post-funeral religious rites conducted by religious organisations with a good track record of implementing safe management measures, or by religious workers endorsed by these religious organisations, will be allowed to take place in places of worship and some external venues, such as HDB common areas.
The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth will release details shortly, said MOH.
“We will continue to assess the situation and allow the gradual assumption of other events, including wedding receptions and some religious rites,” he said.
Mr Gan pointed to how celebrations for Singapore’s 55th National Day this coming weekend were changed to accommodate safe management measures.
“Singaporeans are a resourceful people, and many have found new and creative ways to commemorate our nation's independence while adhering to the safe management measures,” he said.
The task force's co-chair, Education Minister Lawrence Wong, warned that any lapses in complying with safe management guidelines could see "low levels of infection ... suddenly flare up into large clusters, any where, any time".
"I think for us in Singapore, we are quite realistic that it may not be possible to get to a virus-free status, it may not be possible to eradicate the virus," he said.
"But the key is to learn how to live with COVID-19. It will be with us for quite some time."
People have to adjust their way of life to accommodate the safety measures that are aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus, said Mr Wong.
“But it doesn't mean that we stop living or we all live in perpetual circuit breaker. It's not possible,” he said.
“We are likely to be in this phase for quite some time,” Mr Wong added.
“And as long as we are able to put in place the necessary measures, as long as Singaporeans and residents of Singapore comply with the safe distancing measures, we think we can progressively resume more activities, while keeping the infection under control. That's our objective.”
Watch the full press conference and subsequent Q&A session with journalists: