SINGAPORE: Fully vaccinated people, including those from different households, can dine together in groups of up to five from Monday (Nov 22), Singapore's COVID-19 multi-ministry task force announced on Saturday.
The group size limit on social gatherings will also be raised from two to five people, and the cap on household visitors will likewise increase to five, said task force co-chair Gan Kim Yong.
Speaking at a press conference, Mr Gan said that Singapore’s Stabilisation Phase will end on Nov 21, and the country will return to the Transition Phase.
“We are now in a better position to further relax the safe management measures,” he added.
The situation and proportion of severe COVID-19 cases have remained stable, with the week-on-week infection ratio staying at about 1 or lower, said Mr Gan.
Daily case numbers have fallen to below 3,000 a day on average. Close to 99 per cent have mild or no symptoms and the "vast majority" are recovering at home, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said in a separate press release.
The proportion of patients who need oxygen supplementation was at 0.8 per cent of total cases in the past 28 days, while 0.2 per cent needed ICU care.
“The number of cases in the ICU remains high but stable in the past week at around 120 cases per day. Our overall ICU occupancy in the past week is at approximately 60 per cent,” the ministry said.
“The unvaccinated continue to make up a disproportionate number of ICU patients and those requiring hospitalisation.”
HAWKER CENTRES, COFFEE SHOPS
The easing of dining-in restrictions to allow groups of up to five will apply to hawker centres and coffee shops from Tuesday – but only if they have implemented vaccination checks.
Hawker centres and coffee shops that are unable to do so can only have fully vaccinated diners in groups of up to two, said Mr Gan, who is also the Trade and Industry Minister.
Those who are unvaccinated are not allowed to dine in and can continue to only take away food, the Health Ministry said in its press release.
Unvaccinated children aged 12 and below can be included in groups of five people dining in as long as they are all from the same household.
People who are medically ineligible to take the COVID-19 vaccination can also be included from Dec 1.
“Nevertheless, we continue to caution medically ineligible persons of their susceptibility to severe illness if infected with COVID-19, and urge them to be careful despite such a concession,” MOH said.
It urged households to “accept only visitors who are vaccinated” to protect those who are unvaccinated against COVID-19 from exposure to the virus.
“Unvaccinated individuals should also exercise caution and protect themselves by reducing their movement and staying at home as much as possible,” the ministry said.
“In addition, visitors to households that have an unvaccinated person or vulnerable elderly are strongly encouraged to test themselves prior to the visit to ensure that they do not unwittingly transmit COVID-19 to those who are vulnerable.”
WEDDING SOLEMNISATIONS, RECEPTIONS
Safe management measures for wedding solemnisations and receptions will also be adjusted from Monday.
The wedding couple can remain unmasked throughout the reception or solemnisation, and members of the wedding party will be allowed to sing at the reception, subject to “additional precautions”.
To allow for such activities, the wedding couple or the individuals involved will have to take an antigen rapid test (ART) supervised by the venue operator or have a valid pre-event test result within 24 hours before the event, said MOH in the press release.
Vaccination-differentiated measures will be expanded to all public libraries and selected activities in community clubs or centres under the People’s Association.
“By restricting entry to only individuals who have been fully vaccinated, we can further reduce the risk of transmission in such settings,” the ministry said.
FURTHER EASING POSSIBLY IN END-DECEMBER
There may be “pent-up demand” from people who want to go out during the year-end festivities, said Health Minister and task force co-chair Ong Ye Kung.
“So as far as possible, we don’t want to do an opening move that’s significant in the month of December, because we risk once opening, social activities will spike up very high, and it can drive and spark off a new wave,” he added.
The situation will be monitored over the next few weeks, and if it remains stable, Singapore will “consider the next series of moves” around end-December, said co-chair Lawrence Wong.
"It’s not a 'big bang' approach. This approach will require all of us to be patient, to be disciplined and to exercise social responsibility.
“But we are confident that this approach in the longer term will yield better results, will minimise casualties and will, importantly, allow us steady progress towards becoming a COVID-resilient nation.”
Mr Gan urged Singaporeans to remain vigilant and exercise social responsibility even though dining-in restrictions have been eased.
"Please don't rush to celebrate and have multiple gatherings in a day," he said, warning that if this happens, cases will multiply and set back Singapore's reopening.
"If you need to go to big gatherings or big events, please take a test to make sure that you are not the one that is imposing risks on other people."