SINGAPORE: All ticketed cultural, sports and entertainment events with 250 participants or more are to be deferred or cancelled, the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced on Friday (Mar 13).
If tickets have been sold for these events, organisers must demonstrate that satisfactory precautionary measures are in place before they can proceed, the ministry said.
For all other mass gatherings including private functions and religious services, MOH has advised precautions. These include reducing the scale of events to below 250 participants where possible, reducing the crowding of participants and improving ventilation.
"The basic idea around social-distancing is to reduce density and crowdedness. So that’s the basic objective," said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong at a press conference on Friday.
"Because many event organisers need some benchmark or a simple guide; we’ve used 250 as a guide to let event organisers know roughly where to benchmark their events, the size of their events.
"Obviously it’s more complex than a single number. You would want to think about the density of the event, you would want to think about the duration of the event, and you would think about the nature of the event."
Mr Wong added: "There is no point having social-distancing (at one place) and then later on you go outside and everybody shares the same food, for example."
In its news release, MOH advised event organisers to put in place temperature and health screening measures; turn away persons who are unwell; and put in measures to facilitate contact tracing if needed.
“Participants could be seated at least one metre apart from one another, and be advised to reduce contact with others,” MOH added.
WORKPLACES, ENTERTAINMENT VENUES ADVISED TO TAKE PRECAUTIONS
MOH advised employers to put in place measures to reduce close contact where feasible. It gave examples of implementing tele-commuting and video-conferencing, staggering work hours and sitting spaced apart in meeting rooms and work stations.
Owners and tenants of venues that are publicly accessible were also advised to take precautions where possible.
These include setting seats at least one metre apart at dining venues, limiting the number of visitors at any one time at venues at entertainment venues and tourist attractions such as casinos, cinemas and theme parks.
Sports centres with indoor facilities such as gyms and private academies could also limit the number of patrons and introduce physical separation measures, MOH said.
The advisories for events, gatherings, workplaces and venues will be “subject to further review based on the global situation”, MOH added.
Responding to a question on school closures in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, Mr Wong said that the evidence for such a move is "not so clear at this stage”.
“We won’t rule it out, but we do need to get better clarity on the effectiveness of school measures and how this can potentially help to break or slow down the transmission chain before we decide on putting in place a measure like that,” he added.
Mr Wong also noted that the COVID-19 outbreak has, so far, seemed to infect more adults than children.
“In this particular experience, so far, unusually fewer children have been infected. What is not clear is whether it’s fewer because their symptoms are so mild that we’re not picking them up, or whether it’s because somehow this is different from the normal influenza and the children are not as prone to being infected for some reason, which we don’t quite understand yet.”
The first scenario is a cause for concern, because infected children may also infect their parents and grandparents, who may be more vulnerable to the disease, said Mr Wong.
“If it is the second scenario, then school closures are really not the right measure to put in place because they are not infected. The rate of infection among children is very low."