On Monday (15 June), the multi-ministry taskforce announced the plans to start Phase Two of circuit breaker on 19 June with several safe distancing principles.
According to the taskforce, small-group social gatherings of up to any five persons will be resumed while households may receive up to five visitors at any one time under the Phase Two of reopening.
Nonetheless, measures will be put in place to ensure that individuals maintain safe distancing of at least one metre at all times. Where not feasible to apply one metre safe distancing between individuals, it can instead be enforced between groups – with each group made up of not more than five persons, and with no mixing between groups.
Responding to a media question on the relevant guidelines for walkabouts if the General Election (GE) is to be held in Phase Two, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong replied that in term of activities, “the rule of five” would apply if the people is out and about.
“So, you can go out with your friends to exercise, to go on a walk, then up to five people, but not more than that, and all must wear masks,” he noted.
When asked about how the Phase Two of reopening encompass the election time frame and how it could impact campaigning, Mr Wong said that the timeline of Phase Two is based on the “public health considerations” as the Government see the ability to control the infection while allowing for the economy and the society to open up safely.
He added that the election guidelines, precautions, and safeguards are “put together separately by the Elections Department (ELD)”.
“They have already explained potentially how if and when an election were to be organised or held, what sort of precautions and safeguards would be put in place.
“So, this can happen in Phase Two, it may happen in Phase Three, no one will know the exact timing at this stage, but should the election be called, the Elections Department will certainly explain what the precautions, safeguards and campaign guidelines entails, so that’s not for this taskforce to answer,” Mr Wong remarked.
ELD released contingency plans for safety measures during GE
Recently, the Elections Department (ELD) released some information of its contingency plans for safety measures for Nomination and Polling proceedings at the next GE, so that the next GE can be conducted safely should it be held amid the COVID-19 situation.
The ELD stated that guidelines for campaigning (e.g. whether physical rallies, walkabouts, and house-to-house visits can continue) will take guidance from prevailing guidelines of Ministry of Health (MOH) on safe distancing and safe management.
As these activities involve large group gatherings, the ELD noted that the guidelines will depend on the COVID-19 situation at the time and, therefore, will be shared at a later date.
Netizens say the Government is gambling with the people’s lives, adding that Phase Two seems geared towards GE
As the restrictions of social gatherings were eased under the Phase Two of reopening, a handful of netizens penned their thoughts on the Facebook pages of The Straits Times, Channel New Asia, and Mothership.sg, saying that the Government is gambling with the people’s lives by proceeding with the GE despite the COVID-19 situation still ongoing.
Compared with New Zealand and Taiwan – which eased the restrictions only after the country recorded low numbers of cases for a few weeks – one netizen said, “We have hundreds of cases every day, and the PAP is gambling with the virus with people’s lives for the sake of their GE strategy, betraying their true intentions.”
Many netizens also put the pieces together, hinting that the GE is nigh given that Phase 2 kicked off earlier than expected, adding that the Government can lay out any narrative to say things are under control despite the apparent risk.
One netizen commented that all these safe distancing measures announced for Phase Two “seems geared toward GE”, adding that while the Government may say that the condition is safe, the numbers of daily cases still range between 200 to 500.
A few netizens opined that the safe distancing rules are confusing and nonsensical, adding that they are not well thought out.
One netizen said that there should be transparency on how the taskforce decides on the ‘rule of five’ – whether it is derived arbitrarily or there are reasons to it.
While others netizen also raised concern that the risk of second wave of infections might surge if the the country start the Phase Two of reopening too soon.