SINGAPORE: With a falling number of community cases, Singapore is in a position to start the gradual easing of "circuit breaker" measures, the COVID-19 multi-ministry task force announced on Saturday (May 2).
Speaking at a virtual press conference, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong noted that with stricter circuit breaker measures in place for about two weeks, the number of new cases in the community has been on the decline.
READ: COVID-19 circuit breaker extended until Jun 1 as Singapore aims to bring down community cases ‘decisively’: PM Lee
READ: From buying cakes to getting a haircut - what you can or cannot do after the easing of some COVID-19 restrictions
He said that some businesses will resume operations from May 12, with a gradual resumption of selected activities and services over a few weeks.
Home-based food businesses, selected food retail outlets and food manufacturing firms will be among those that will be able to resume operations from May 12, co-chair of the task force and National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said at the press conference.
Mr Wong added the authorities will start to bring back students in small groups or face to face lessons in May, focusing on cohorts who are taking national exams and are graduating.
“It’s a small group, and we will do it with safe-distancing measures,” he said.
In the meantime, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) acupuncture will be allowed from May 5, for pain management only if assessed by the TCM practitioner to be essential, the authorities said.
This excludes cupping, moxibustion, guasha and tuina manipulative therapies.
READ: 'Minor adjustments' to circuit breaker measures from May 5, acupuncture among services to be allowed
COVID-19: Some students to be allowed to go back to school from May 19 under easing of circuit breaker
TCM halls with registered TCM practitioners will also be allowed to sell retail products. This is on top of the consultation and herbal dispensary services which they are already allowed to provide.
Also from May 5, residents living in strata-titled residential buildings such as condominiums may exercise within the common areas of these private residential developments, such as footpaths.
However, they must continue to follow safe distancing measures, as the same rules that apply in public areas will also apply within the common areas of these developments, the task force said.
"Our enforcement officers will go in, periodically, to inspect and check and enforce the rules, but importantly we also call on all the Management Corporations (MCSTs) and managing agents within these developments to do their part, and also help with the enforcement," Mr Wong said.
All sports and recreational facilities within these private residential developments such as playgrounds, pools, gyms, barbecue pits and clubhouses will remain closed.
In response to a question on whether different places will be given different dates to reopen, given notices at some bubble tea shops will reopen on May 5, Mr Wong said that is not the case."We are only starting on May 12," he said.
NOT "OUT OF WOODS" YET
Even as the easing of the circuit breaker measures was announced, Mr Gan cautioned that “we are not out of the woods yet".
“New clusters may form if we let our guards down. We must press on with our efforts, so that we continue to keep the numbers low,” he said.
The rest of the circuit breaker measures continue to be crucial, and will remain in force until Jun 1, he added.
The Government will be able to further roll back some of the circuit breaker measures if the situation is “clearly under control” until Jun 1, he said.
“Even then, it will be a new normal we all have to adapt to,” he said.
Mr Wong reiterated the need for Singaporeans and residents to keep doing their part in the fight against COVID-19, despite the easing of measures from May 12.
"We want to call on Singaporeans and residents in Singapore not to take this as a signal that 'now we can slacken. we can go out and the battle is won'. It is far from over," he said.
Singapore's economy will open up "step by step" when the number of COVID-19 cases in the community falls, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Thursday in his May Day message.
Singapore is into its fourth week of a "circuit breaker" period to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. Safe distancing measures have been tightened and the circuit breaker extended by another four weeks to Jun 1.