SINGAPORE: The current size of group gatherings allowed will be reduced from five people to two people, following a spike in COVID-19 community cases, said co-chair of the multi-ministry task force Lawrence Wong on Friday (May 14).
This, and other new measures under what the Health Ministry labelled as "Phase 2 (Heightened Alert)" will take effect from May 16 through Jun 13.
Speaking at a multi-ministry task force press conference on Friday, Mr Wong said: “This will apply across the board, so if you want to go out for anything, grocery shopping, exercise, maximum of two persons henceforth.
“In fact, we strongly encourage everyone to stay home as much as possible, go out only for essential reasons.
“We will do a review at the midway point, meaning two weeks after the measures have been implemented, and at that point, we will look at the prevailing public health situation and see if there’s a need to adjust the measures further,” said Mr Wong, who is also Education Minister.
Responding to questions about whether Singapore could enter another “circuit breaker” after the midpoint review, Mr Wong said: “If indeed the situation does not improve, we certainly will not rule out even more stringent measures thereafter.
“But there is also a chance that things may improve, and therefore, we may also consider the other way around, easing some of the restrictions.”
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“We need to act decisively to disrupt the virus transmission. We will therefore further tighten safe management measures in the community”
DINING-IN SUSPENDED, WORK-FROM-HOME AS DEFAULT
Dining-in at F&B establishments will also not be allowed, said Mr Wong. This includes hawker centres and food courts, both indoors and outdoors.
“We will take tighter measures around the higher-risk settings, and these higher-risk settings are the ones where people are gathered together in an indoor environment without their mask on,” said Mr Wong.
“All dining-in will have to cease … All F&B establishments will only be able to offer takeaway and delivery options. In line with this, wedding banquets will also have to cease because it’s a dining activity.”
Working from home will also be the default at workplaces, he added. “All employees who are able to work from home will have to do so. Work-from-home will be the default.”
The cap of five distinct visitors per household per day will also be reduced to two distinct visitors per household per day, Mr Wong said.
“Individuals should continue to limit their overall number of social gatherings to not more than two per day, whether to another household, or meeting with friends and family members in a public place,” said the Ministry of Health (MOH) in a separate press release.
Grandchildren being cared for by their grandparents on a daily basis would not count towards the cap of two distinct visitors or the number of social gatherings per day, said MOH in the press release.
“However, grandparents are strongly encouraged to be vaccinated against COVID-19, to protect both themselves and their grandchildren from COVID-19 infection. To reduce the risk of transmission, grandparents should also minimise intermingling between grandchildren from different households,” said the Health Ministry.
Other activities that will not be allowed during this period include strenuous indoor exercise classes, or strenuous individual and group indoor sports and exercise activities, said MOH in the press release.
Personalised services that need masks to be removed like facials and saunas, singing and playing instruments that need “require intentional expulsion of air” like wind or brass instruments, will also not be allowed. However, medical and dental services can continue, the press release noted.
EVENT SIZES AND PRE-EVENT TESTING
Event sizes and event size caps will be further scaled down, said Mr Wong.
Currently, events can have 100 attendees without pre-event testing and 250 with pre-event testing. This will be scaled down to 50 and 100 attendees respectively, he added.
This will apply to congregational and other worship services and MICE activities, said Mr Wong.
“Likewise, we will reduce the capacity limits across the board for shopping malls, showrooms and attractions, as well as cruises, museums, public libraries, all of these capacity limits will be scaled back,” he added.
For congregational and other worship services, religious workers and all other participants must wear their masks at all times “to further mitigate the risk of spread through aerosol transmissions”, said MOH in the press release.
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Live singing and playing of wind instruments will also be suspended during this period.
The operating capacity of attractions that have received prior approval from the Ministry of Trade and Industry will be reduced to 25 per cent from the current 50 per cent. Museums and public libraries will also be allowed to operate at a reduced capacity of 25 per cent. Indoor and outdoor shows can proceed with up to 100 people with pre-event testing and up to 50 without, said MOH.
This also applies to cinemas, but the group size of two people applies. Food and beverages also cannot be sold or consumed in the cinema. The cap for funeral attendees will also be reduced from the current 30 people to 20 people, said MOH in the press release.
Marriage solemnisations will be allowed to continue, with a cap of 50 and 100 attendees without and with pre-event testing respectively, the press release read.
“We know that there is one group who will be particularly impacted too, which are wedding couples. Some of them may already have wedding plans for this coming Sunday, and it may be very hard to make last-minute changes,” said Mr Wong.
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For affected couples, the Government is “prepared to consider grandfathering the arrangement” for couples who have already made plans for Sunday, he added.
“They can proceed, but we will require them to put in place pre-event testing for all their guests. But this is a special arrangement only for this Sunday because this is a once in a lifetime event for the wedding couples.”
The measures announced on Friday are “already very stringent”, said Mr Wong. “If everyone cooperates and we all do our part, we will be able to bring down the latest clusters and cases and bring the infection under control.”
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said separately on Friday that people in Singapore should stay at home "as far as possible" and go out only for essential tasks as well as follow government advisories.
"If you do go out, remember to practise safe distancing measures, like using TraceTogether and wearing a mask," he said in a Facebook post.
"The new clusters and unlinked community cases in the past fortnight are very worrying. We are testing more intensively, and doing our utmost to ring-fence the transmissions. But we also need stricter restrictions to stop more cases from popping up."
Mr Lee also urged members of the public to get vaccinated in order to protect themselves and their loved ones.
"The new measures will be difficult for everybody. But if we all play our part and look out for one another, we will succeed in stemming the transmission of the virus, just like we did last year," he added.