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COVID-19: Hairdressers, confectioneries, standalone beverage outlets to close as essential services list trimmed

COVID-19: Hairdressers, confectioneries, standalone beverage outlets to close as essential services list trimmed

Safe distancing measures in place at a bubble tea shop in Chinatown Point on Mar 26, 2020. (Photo: Jeremy Long)

SINGAPORE: Standalone outlets that sell only beverages, packaged snacks, confectioneries or desserts will have to close their shops after the authorities further tightened the list of essential services to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Businesses are still allowed to sell these products online if they are fulfilled from a licensed central kitchen, manufacturing facility or warehouse.

This is provided the manufacturing plant is allowed to run, as sites that make items such as cakes, ice cream and chocolate are banned from operating.

Hairdressers and barbers will also have to close their outlets, the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said in a press release on Tuesday (Apr 21). 

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Food and beverage outlets that sell meals and cooked snacks, as well as hawker centres, food courts and coffee shops, will be allowed to continue delivery and takeaway services.

Bakeries that sell mainly bread are also exempted from the suspension, MTI said in response to queries from CNA, adding that such shops may remain open only to manufacture and sell bread.

For bakeries that sell other items, for example cakes, they will be allowed to sell off their remaining inventory but will not be able to bake new cakes for sale.

If the store sells a mix of items, then staying open or shutting its doors depends on what it predominantly offers, according to the ministry.

"For example, if you predominantly sell hot meals and some selection of desserts, you can continue sales of all the food items that are not within the manufacturing suspended scope," MTI told CNA.

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Further restrictions have been placed on some consumer-facing businesses to reduce customer interactions.

Opticians can only operate by appointment, while pet supplies and retail laundry services must close their physical stores and are permitted to only provide online sales and delivery.

Retailers can continue to operate online, MTI said, but they can only deliver the goods via mail or delivery services. Customers are not allowed to visit the stores to collect their orders. 

These measures on food and retail outlets will take effect from Wednesday and continue until at least May 4. 

From Wednesday, all supermarkets and malls will have to conduct temperature screenings, while customers visiting "popular" malls and supermarkets will have to provide their particulars for contact tracing.

Some companies will also have to suspend their on-site activities, said MTI. The ministry will inform the affected businesses and have 24 hours after that to wind down their operations. 

"While this may mean some degradation of services, it is necessary to further reduce the number of workers in essential firms and minimise the risks of transmission among workers," it said. 

During the "circuit breaker", employees who are still working will have to log their entry and exit from their workplaces using a digital check-in application called SafeEntry. This is to ensure contact tracing can be done "expeditiously", said MTI. 

This comes after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced on Tuesday that Singapore's circuit breaker period would be extended to Jun 1. 

Those who breach the rules face a fine of up to S$10,000, or six months' jail, or both, while repeat offenders can be fined up to S$20,000 or jailed up to 12 months, or both.  

Businesses that fail to comply could also end up ineligible for government assistance, the ministry added.

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The closure of more workplaces as a result of the essential services list being tightened will lead to a reduction of the commuting workforce from the current 20 per cent to 15 per cent, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong during the multi-ministry task force media briefing on Tuesday afternoon. 

“We will do this by making cuts across all sectors of the economy, but also in businesses that are consumer-facing, including in F&B and other services,” said Mr Wong. 

“But this will mean that all of us may face some degradation of services, or we may not be able to access F&B, or certain services that we have become accustomed to.”

“Many of them have been working as part of essential services, or have family members who are working, because these are the people who are still out and about,” said Mr Wong. 

The Government will consider “gradually easing some of these measures” if transmission numbers dwindle to single digits, he said, adding that Singapore is “seeing results” from the “circuit breaker” measures.

"The measures that we’ve just announced will be in place until May 4. Beyond that, we will continue with the circuit breaker for another four weeks to Jun 1. Depending on how the situation evolves, we will adjust the measures," he said. 

"If there are clear improvements in our community transmission numbers - for example, if we see community numbers coming down to single digits - then we can consider gradually easing some of these measures."

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Source: CNA/hw(rw)


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