Singapore would gradually reopen its borders to enable Singaporeans to conduct essential activities abroad and allow foreigners to enter and transit through the country safely, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Tuesday (19 March).
This came after the Multi-Ministry Taskforce announced the country’s decision to exit the circuit breaker when it ends on 1 June and implement a controlled approach to resume activities safely over three phases.
The reopening of borders, however, will be assessed and implemented separately from the timing of the three broad phases of reopening as the global situation remains volatile, the MOH asserted in a statement.
“We will do so in a careful manner with the necessary precautions and safeguards,” it noted.
The Government is exploring the possibility of piloting “green lane arrangements” with countries that recorded an equivalent or lower risk of community transmission as Singapore, in which essential travel in limited numbers and safeguards can be done safely.
Such arrangements will be expanded gradually as the global situation improves, said the MOH.
Public Transport to implement safety management measures
At the local level, with more people expected to return to work and school after 1 June, certain safe management measures will have to be implemented in public transport.
“Businesses will be required to stagger their working hours to minimise travel during peak periods,” the MOH stated.
Noting that it will be difficult to maintain physical distancing between commuters in public transport, the MOH reiterated that commuters must wear a mask, refrain from talking to one another or on their mobile phones, and maintain good personal hygiene.
Meanwhile, buses and trains will be required to be cleaned more frequently and thoroughly by using anti-microbial chemical coatings on exposed surfaces.
COVID-19 testing capacity will be expanded
The Government will continue to control and contain any subsequent COVID-19 outbreaks by expanding its testing capacity. A higher testing capacity will enable the MOH to diagnose cases early and screen individuals who are at risk of being infected with the virus.
In addition, the MOH said that it will further expand its “sentinel surveillance” for undetected cases in the community, while contact tracing will be accelerated to identify and isolate close contacts of infected individuals.
“Upon detection of a case, we aim to be able to identify their close contacts quickly, and notify them of the need to be quarantined. This will help to ring-fence the cases and reduce the likelihood of clusters forming,” it added.
Wearing a mask remains mandatory when going outside
Despite the Government’s decision to ease the measures and move on to the next phase, everyone is advised to develop “a greater sense of social responsibility, by raising and maintaining overall cleanliness and hygiene levels”.
The MOH asserted that wearing a mask when going outside remains mandatory even after the circuit breaker is lifted.
It added that people should avoid sharing food and crockery, or only doing so with separate utensils. When eating out at restaurants or hawker centres, patrons should immediately clear the customers’ trays and used crockery after meals, while keeping the table clean.
Netizens disagree and asked the Govt to rethink the idea of reopening Singapore’s borders
Following the Government’s decision to gradually reopen the country’s borders, many netizens voiced their disagreement, saying that it would be too soon to reopen the border as it could risk the country having to face a second-wave of the COVID-19.
Many online users penned their thoughts on the Channel News Asia (CNA) Facebook post, imploring the Government to reconsider the decision to reopen Singapore’s borders.
Several netizens brought up about the Government restricting the number of family members when visiting, but now it is considering to reopen borders and allow visitors to enter the country.
Meanwhile, some netizens asked whether the visitors who enter the country will be quarantined for 14 days after the borders are reopened.
A few netizens wrote that the Government should first consider reopening local businesses and schools, instead of considering to reopen the borders.