COVID-19 group size limit to be removed in Singapore, all employees can return to the workplace from Apr 26
The country will lower its DORSCON level from Orange to Yellow for the first time in more than two years.
SINGAPORE: There will no longer be limits on group sizes or a requirement for safe distancing from Apr 26 as Singapore moves to further ease COVID-19 measures.
All employees may also return to the workplace from Apr 26, an increase from the current limit of 75 per cent of those who can work from home.
That is also when the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) level will be lowered from Orange to Yellow for the first time in more than two years.
The DORSCON framework, which gives an indication of the current disease situation, was raised to Orange on Feb 7, 2020.
With COVID-19 cases falling and stabilising in Singapore, the “time is right” to lower it to Yellow, co-chair of the task force Gan Kim Yong at a press conference on Friday (Apr 22).
“Under DORSCON Yellow, each of us must continue to comply with the safe management measures and exercise social responsibility. This means that if you are unwell, we should really stay home. We must also maintain good personal hygiene and adhere to health advisories,” said Mr Gan, who is the Trade and Industry Minister.
GROUP SIZE, CAPACITY LIMITS
With the easing of restrictions, it will no longer be a requirement to keep to a group size of 10 from Apr 26.
The cap on the number of unique visitors per household will similarly be lifted, said co-chair of the task force Lawrence Wong. The current limit is also 10 visitors per household at any one time.
The capacity limit of 75 per cent for mask-on events with more than 1,000 people will also be removed.
However, this capacity limit will remain at nightlife establishments where there is dancing among patrons because it is considered a higher-risk activity, said Mr Wong.
MASKS NOT MANDATORY AT THE WORKPLACE
Mask-wearing will continue to be required indoors, including on public transport, and optional outdoors.
At the workplace, however, employees will be allowed to remove their masks when they are not interacting physically with others and when they are not in customer-facing areas, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) in a separate press release.
This means that employees at their work stations in the office will be allowed to take off their masks, Mr Wong said.
“Because it will be very hard to be back at work throughout the day and then wearing a mask and working. And therefore this flexibility is extended for such an occasion,” he added, urging employees to maintain a safe distance from their colleagues if they are not wearing a mask.
The Health Ministry said that even with these changes, employers are encouraged to retain flexible work arrangements such as telecommuting and staggered work hours.
"Beyond the workplace benefits of flexible work arrangements, this will also help workers avoid peak period crowds as more of us return to the workplace," it added.
The Health Ministry said Singapore's transition to DORSCON Yellow is a milestone in its progress towards living with COVID-19.
"However, the situation can change quickly in the face of new variants. Hence, we urge everyone to remain socially responsible and vigilant even as we take strides towards normalcy," it added.
This is a “very significant step forward” in Singapore’s journey to live with COVID-19, said Mr Wong, who is also Finance Minister.
“It has been more than two years since we raise the alert to DORSCON Orange in February 2020. Since then we’ve gone through a lot together,” he added, recounting the panic buying, the “circuit breaker” and multiple rounds of restrictions.
“Two years isn’t that long but it somehow feels like a lifetime ago because so much has happened. And we have been through so much together. Working together, we have been able to keep everyone in Singapore safe, to protect lives and livelihoods, and to achieve one of the lowest COVID-19 fatality rates in the world.”
Stressing that the COVID-19 pandemic is “certainly not over” and that a new variant will emerge sooner or later, Mr Wong added that Singapore may have to tighten restrictions or reinstate TraceTogether and SafeEntry when the time comes.
“The approach that we are taking is step down, but not dismantle. We must keep our systems warm so that we can activate them later on if the need arises,” he said.
“And we hope everyone understands this, so that if and when we need to tighten, you will be mentally and psychologically prepared for such future scenarios.”
Watch the full news conference, including the Q&A session with journalists: