SINGAPORE: While the COVID-19 multi-ministry task force is working on a roadmap towards Phase 3, the country will remain in Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) Orange “for the time being”, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong on Monday (Oct 5).
He was responding to a Parliamentary question by the People's Action Party's Jessica Tan on when Singapore would be easing its COVID-19 safe management measures.
Workers' Party Member of Parliament (MP) Louis Chua also asked for the Government's risk assessment on moving the country into Phase 3 of reopening.
“Even as we move towards Phase 3, the new normal will be different from what we were used to in the pre-COVID days,” he said. Mr Gan added that the multi-ministry task force will give more details on its Phase 3 roadmap in the coming weeks.
On whether the Government will review Singapore’s DORSCON status, Mr Gan said that the DORSCON level is “not just determined by the number of cases alone”.
“At this moment, particularly we have to be very mindful that while the number of cases in Singapore is low, the cases around us, other parts of the world, is still rising. So therefore, we cannot let our guard down.
“So I would continue to maintain DORSCON Orange for the time being, until we are quite confident that the global situation is under control,” he said.
Singapore raised its DORSCON level from Yellow to Orange in early February, as several unlinked cases without travel history to mainland China emerged. DORSCON Orange means that the disease is deemed severe and spreads easily from person to person, but has not spread widely and is being contained.
“CAREFULLY CALIBRATED APPROACH IN OPENING UP”
Mr Gan said Singapore has learnt “very important lessons” from other countries in easing COVID-19 precautionary measures and that doing so “prematurely, or too hastily” could cause cases to rise again, resulting in partial re-imposition of restrictions.
But it is also “not sustainable” to maintain tight restrictions for a “prolonged period of time”, as it would “severely impact” the economy and lives, he said.
As such, the Government has taken a “carefully calibrated approach in opening up our society and economy”, even as it works towards Phase 3, said the minister.
“This is complemented by close monitoring, extensive testing and comprehensive contact tracing to keep the situation under control, as we balance the protection of lives and livelihoods.”
He added that the Government has made “significant moves” towards restoring economic and social activities, such as allowing more employees to return to their workplaces.
But to keep workplaces “safe” and “minimise crowding”, employees should continue to work from home for at least half their working time, and there should be no more than 50 per cent of such employees at the workplace at any one time, he said.
Work-related events, including conferences, seminars and meetings, are also allowed to resume, Mr Gan added, but with a 50-person cap.
In addition, the Government has now allowed up to 100 persons to attend key life events, such as weddings and religious activities. However, they must be in multiple zones or time slots of at most 50 persons each.
Physical exercises classes have resumed, while cinemas and leisure attractions may now admit more people at any one time. Museums and libraries have also re-opened, and the Government is piloting small-scale live performances as trials towards progressive resumption on a bigger scale.
LARGER GROUP SIZES CONSIDERED
While the Government is “particularly concerned” about dining, as people remove their masks to eat but also talk at the same time, it could consider allowing general group sizes larger than five, said Mr Gan.
“If all of us continue to work together and keep our guard up even as more activities resume, we will be able to keep the pandemic under control, and progress towards further opening up our economy and society steadily,” he said.
He added that the Government had started pilots of events and activities with a larger number of attendees, like trade exhibitions, conferences and religious worship. If the pilots show that they can “maintain effective precautions and safe distancing measures”, the Government could allow more large-scale events to proceed, he said.
Overseas travel will further open up as well, in a “safe and calibrated manner”.
“As overseas travel restrictions are progressively eased and more activities resume, it has become even more critical that each of us play our part to exercise social responsibility and adhere to the safe management measures, in order to keep our family and friends safe as we progress towards Phase 3,” said Mr Gan.