Places of worship, cultural venues, and public entertainment establishments will need to “convince” the authorities with “robust safety plans” before they can be permitted to reopen, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong in Parliament on Thursday (4 June).
Members of Parliament (MPs) Chong Kee Hiong and Lim Biow Chuan questioned the Minister whether the Health Ministry would consider allowing food and beverage (F&B) outlets to resume dine-in services, following the low COVID-19 infection rates within the community recently.
In response, Mr Gan noted that the Government plans to allow gatherings of up to five people in the second phase as the country exits the circuit breaker period. However, “a more cautious approach” will still be implemented for places with “higher-risk activities” that involve people gathering in enclosed spaces for prolonged periods of time.
These places include places of worship, cultural venues such as art performances, museums, and libraries, and public entertainment establishments such as nightclubs, bars, and karaoke outlets.
“Organisers of these activities and business owners would need to convince relevant agencies that they have robust plans to ensure safety, before we let them open,” said Mr Gan.
He added that the Government will reach out to businesses and organisations behind such higher-risk activities on the measures that can be implemented to resume their activities safely in the second phase.
Mr Gan went on to say that such places could risk clusters of COVID-19 transmission to occur, citing the 255 cases of COVID-19 that were linked to a nightclub cluster in South Korea’s Itaewon entertainment district in early May.
In Singapore, the Hero’s Bar – a sports bar located at 69 Circular Road – was linked to a cluster that emerged on 30 March involving nine patients.
As for F&B outlets, Mr Gan stated that the Government will consider reopening F&B outlets in phase two, which also applies to retail, personal, health and wellness, and home-based services.
The reopening of the outlets, however, will be subjected to safe management measures that need to be set in place.
“Some may start earlier, others may need a bit more time to put in place the necessary safeguards,” he noted.
The Minister reiterated that Singapore is currently in phase one, which is “likely to be very restrictive”. Thus, reopening “too quickly” will lead to an increase in COVID-19 cases, which would then force the Government to close the economy again.
“We prefer to keep phase one safe, so that we can open phase two safely, and hopefully faster, rather than to delay further because cases reemerge,” he remarked.