As Singapore enters Phase One of the circuit breaker exit period which begun on 1 June, some COVID-19 regulations have been amended for individuals and businesses to adopt during this phase of the post-circuit breaker period in order to prevent a resurgence of COVID-19 infections within the community.
Considering the risk of COVID-19 spreading, visiting others from a different household and social gatherings will continue to be prohibited during Phase One.
However, what is worth noting is that the public is allowed to board public transportation without practising social distancing, which will likely be crowded now as many people return to work or school.
Safe distancing stickers and markers in trains and buses which we installed a couple of months ago will also be removed progressively by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) given the expected difficulty in maintaining safe distancing between commuters.
During a press conference on Sunday (8 June), National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said that he understood people are making comparisons between allowing the use of public transport without safe distancing but not visits to family and friends in different households.
However, he noted, “But I think we need to better understand that the settings and risk are very different”.
He then explained, “In public transport, the fact that we are allowing people to return to work, to go back to school means that inevitably there will be more people using public transport and when that happens it will be hard to maintain that physical distance between one another.”
Noting that maintaining safe distancing “was potentially not possible” on public transport, he said that the Government has therefore implemented other precautions such as requiring people to wear masks and not to talk when they are on public transport as well as stepping up the cleaning of trains and buses.
“So, with all of these measures, we can minimise the risk on public transport,” noted Mr Wong, who also co-chairs the multi-ministry taskforce on the pandemic with Health Minister Gan Kim Yong.
He added, “In any case, the public transport journeys are not long, these are transient risk but with these additional precautions, we are able to minimise the risk further and ensure that public transport journeys are safe.”
Comparing the risk infection by as people crowd in public transport, Mr Wong said that social interactions post “a different magnitude of risk all together”.
He noted that the risks of transmissions are higher when people are gathering together, whether to talk or to have a meal together.
Mr Wong further stated, “And the evidence we have for cases in Singapore and also the evidence around the world shows that the vast majority of infected cases are typically spread by these few events that involve social interactions and gathering.
“That’s why we have been much stricter on limiting such social gatherings in Phase One,” he asserted.
Penning their thought on the Mothership Youtube video of Mr Wong’s briefing, netizens were not in favour of the explanation given by the Minister while criticising his explanations as being “nonsensical”. They pointed out that the Government’s move appears to contradict with one another.
As the Government allowed the school to resume conducting classes while only selected business to can resume operations, one Youtube user felt that the precautionary measures implemented in Phase One are totally “contradictory”.
A few Youtube users also complained that the Government should work out a “concrete solution” against COVID-19 together instead of gathering the statistic and evidence around the world, which is not helpful to safeguard people’s safety.
A few Youtube users also opined that it would be easier to contact trace between family and friends rather than strangers on public transport if there the virus did spread there.
The netizens also wondered why public transport services do not need to submit to safe working plans and comply with the safe distancing rules as other companies which have needed to do so in order to resume their businesses.
“They are in a lost on what to do…only can think to recover back profits,” one user wrote.
One Youtube user suggested the government is “rushing” into this because of the upcoming elections while another cautioned that these kind of “mistakes” could soon spark the second wave of infections.
A few netizens also rebutted the Minister’s claim that travelling time with public transport isn’t long.
On the Facebook page of Mothership.sg, a few netizens shared their commuting time when using public transport.