SINGAPORE: People across Singapore started returning to work and school on Tuesday (Jun 2) as the country entered Phase 1 of lifting its “circuit breaker” measures, seven weeks after the curbs were implemented.
Circuit breaker measures first came into effect on Apr 7, and were further tightened after three weeks as COVID-19 continued to spread. The restrictions included the ban of social gatherings, suspension of schools, closing of workplaces and shuttering of most businesses, among many others.
Here’s what the day looked like for Singaporeans who began adjusting to the "new normal", post-circuit breaker.
7am: Wearing masks of various colours and patterns, primary and secondary school students across Singapore streamed into school on what would have been the first week of their usual June school holidays.
With the COVID-19 situation escalating at the tail end of April, authorities announced that the school holidays would be brought forward to start on May 5, so that it coincided with the extended circuit breaker period.
In Phase 1, students from graduating cohorts in primary and secondary schools are allowed to return to school on weekdays, while other cohorts rotate weekly, alternating between home-based learning (HBL) and returning to school for lessons.
READ: Safe distancing measures in classrooms need to be in place when schools reopen, Indranee Rajah says
8am: In the central business district, the morning rush hour was a far cry from the crowds that used to throng the public transportation system daily.
In the trains, commuters in masks sat next to each other – something that had not been possible for the last few months, with stickers on alternate seats that promoted social-distancing measures.
The central business district itself was noticeably quieter, as the only employees who were allowed to return to the office were those who needed to access specialised systems that could not be accessed from home.
Those reporting for work had to "check in" at their offices using SafeEntry, a national digital system that logs details to facilitate contact-tracing efforts.
Security personnel at the entrance were also tasked with temperature-taking for anyone entering the building.
9am: In the heartlands, snaking queues formed outside various bank branches as they too reopened for the first time in weeks.
People in line continued to practice social distancing measures, and had to check in and out using SafeEntry when entering and leaving the bank’s premises.
10am: Behind the scenes at the NTUC First Campus’ My First Skool at 50 Sengkang Way, teachers were cleaning toys in an industrial steriliser after children had played with them.
A cleaner was also seen wiping down frequently touched surfaces like these cubby holes with disinfectant.
Pre-schools will gradually reopen from Jun 2, with kindergarten children returning to school first, followed by those in nursery levels, and finally, those in infant care or playgroups on Jun 10.
11am: As government service centres like the Housing Development Board Hub (HDB) and Central Provident Fund (CPF) reopened their service counters today, long queues were seen outside their buildings in Tampines and Toa Payoh.
In the interest of safeguarding public health, the services are only available to those who make appointments beforehand.
Hairdressers and barbers had already been allowed to reopen since May 12, when some circuit breaker measures were eased. At the time, they were allowed to offer only basic haircuts. This has now been extended to the full range of hairdressing services, and today saw many salons filled with customers getting perms, colouring jobs and other hair treatment, even as they kept their masks on.
However, most retail outlets and establishments offering other personal services are still not allowed to reopen during Phase 1.
1pm: Whether it was in the central business district or the heartlands, restaurants and F&B outlets remained empty, save for the smattering of people waiting outside the premises for their takeaway orders.
Dining in at F&B outlets continues to be disallowed in Phase 1, in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.
2pm: Students at a primary school are seen leaving at the end of their first day back at school.
Air-conditioner servicing and basic pet grooming are some of the services that were allowed to reopen for business today, and those offering such services saw their first customers in weeks.
Other services allowed to resume today include motor vehicle servicing, school bookshops and retail shops selling school uniforms.
Home-based food businesses were allowed to resume operations on May 12, but other home-based businesses that ran on a delivery-and-collection model were not given the green light until today.
Outside the SingPost branch at Tampines Central, people stood patiently in line with large bags of parcels to mail out.
READ: Transition to a 'new normal' after circuit breaker: How will measures be lifted beyond Phase 1?
6pm: As the day drew to a close, taxi drivers gathered in the CBD in the hope of getting a fare as office workers headed back home.
Raffles Place, which is usually abuzz with people, was quiet as the last few stragglers left their offices for home.
7pm: As the sun set on the first day after the circuit breaker’s 49-day grip on people's routines, dozens headed out for a stroll, jog or bike ride.
For many, their first day back at work will be a new routine to get used to, after weeks of staying home.