COVID-19: Phase 2 of reopening to start from Jun 19, social gatherings of up to five people allowed
Retail outlets can open, dining in at F&B outlets will be permitted, and tuition and other private enrichment classes can resume with some exceptions.
SINGAPORE: Phase 2 of the country's reopening will start after Jun 18, 11.59pm, the COVID-19 multi-ministry task force announced on Monday (Jun 15).
The task force has reassessed the situation and made the decision, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said in a media statement.
“Community infection rates have remained generally stable despite the increase in workplace activity in Phase 1 of reopening. The incidence of cases in migrant worker dormitories has also declined, and there are no new large clusters emerging,” MOH said.
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Singapore exited a two-month-long "circuit breaker" designed to limit the spread of COVID-19 on Jun 1. The multi-ministry task force said at the time that Singapore would reopen in three phases, outlining what might be allowed under each phase.
On Monday, the authorities said Phase 2 will involve the resumption of “most activities”, subject to safe distancing principles.
Speaking at a press conference, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong also gave the assurance that most of the cases were detected as a result of active screening of workers, as well as contacts.
The incidence of cases in migrant worker dormitories has also declined, and under control, he said, adding that there are so far no indications of new large clusters emerging. However, he cautioned against taking this situation for granted.
"On one hand, we want to allow economic and community activities to resume, while on the other hand, we must continue to keep infection under control. This is a very delicate balance we have to strike, and to succeed, we will need the collective effort of every Singaporean to be socially responsible."
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SAFE DISTANCING MEASURES A DEFAULT
As a default, measures should be put in place to ensure that individuals maintain safe distancing of at least one metre at all times, MOH said.
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“Where not feasible or practical to apply 1m safe distancing between individuals, this 1m requirement can instead be enforced between groups, with each group made up of not more than five persons, and with no mixing between groups," an MOH spokesperson said.
Other safe management measures should also be in place, she added.
The complete list of businesses that are allowed to operate can be found on the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s website. Businesses in this list do not need to apply for an exemption before resuming operations.
However, they are required to submit the number of workers who are working on-site via the GoBusiness portal within two weeks of the date of resumption of on-site operations.
“In the interest of reducing physical contact between individuals, telecommuting must remain the default for all businesses where feasible,” MOH said.
In settings run by permitted businesses, such as for F&B dining in or classes where individuals come together for activities, the 1m safe distancing requirement may be waived only if each group is made up of not more than five persons, and subject to overall safe management measures as indicated earlier, the spokesperson added.
Further guidance for various sectors will be provided by the relevant agencies in the coming days, leading up to the start of Phase 2, MOH said.
Should they be unable to meet safe management principles, businesses and organisations can engage relevant agencies to seek approval for alternative safe distancing measures, MOH said.
“Such businesses and activities should only open when they are ready. Businesses and organisations found to be flouting safe management principles may be required to close,” MOH added.
In Phase 2, the authorities’ goal is to ensure that efforts taken during the circuit breaker period and Phase 1 of reopening are sustained, MOH said.
The ministry added: “By limiting close contact among individuals, while maintaining hygiene and safe management principles, we will be able to resume more activities without substantially raising the risk of new clusters of infections.”
Co-chair of the multi-ministry task force, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said that Phase 2 should not be treated as a signal that "we can relax, we can all let our guard down".
"I think if we were to take that kind of a mindset and attitude, it will be very easy for Phase 2 to end up with a surge in cases and potentially down the road, the likelihood of having to reintroduce restrictions."
Mr Gan said that the scope for Phase 2 opening is wide, and therefore it is very difficult and challenging to try to prescribe rules and regulations for every possible scenario and setting.
"I'm sure, even as we draw up the rules, people will be thinking of how to get around the rules," he said.
"You can fool the rules but you cannot fool the virus. If you violate the rules, the virus will get to you. The purpose and objective of the rules and regulations is to protect you and not just to penalise you," he said.
Under Phase 1, some activities that have been allowed include visiting parents and places of worship with restrictions. Hairdressers and barbers have also been allowed to open and provide their whole range of services. Pre-schools gradually reopened and a system was created to allow students to return to school.
Last month, the authorities said Phase 2 would involve the gradual reopening of more firms and services with safe management measures in place.
At the time, the authorities said that reaching the next phase could take multiple steps, depending on how the situation evolves. Mr Wong said last month that if infection rates remain low and stable, the authorities would decide by the middle of June whether or not they want to take the next step to Phase 2.
By Phase 3, social, cultural, religious and business gatherings or events should be able to resume, although gathering sizes would still have to be limited in order to prevent large clusters from arising.