Stricter measures on COVID social distancing have been announced on Friday (14 May) and will take effect from Sunday 16 May 2021 through Sunday 13 June 2021.
These measures include limiting group size from 5 to 2, and ceasing option to dine-in at F&B outlets. Work from home arrangement will also be default. Each household can only receive 2 distinct visitors per day. Wedding receptions will not be allowed other than solemnisations. The cap for attendees at funerals will be reduced to 20 to all days.
Speaking at a virtual press conference, Education Minister Lawrence Wong said the stricter measures are needed because many members of the public would have visited Changi Airport in the last few weeks, with some subsequently becoming infected.
“This is worrying as it suggests that there may be unknown cases in the community with possible ongoing community transmission and that our earlier and ongoing measures to break the chains of transmissions may be insufficient.” wrote the Ministry of Health (MOH) on its press release.
“We need to act decisively to contain these risks as any one leak could result in an uncontrolled resurgence of cases. Hence we will move to impose targeted restrictions on higher risk settings such as those where there is a high density of people who are unmasked for prolonged periods.”
A) Further reductions in permissible group size
The current permissible group size of up to 5 persons will be scaled down to 2 persons, and the cap of 5 distinct visitors per household per day to 2 distinct visitors per household per day. Individuals should continue to limit their overall number of social gatherings to not more than 2 per day, whether to another household, or meeting with friends and family members in a public place.
In order to allow families’ current childcare arrangements to continue, grandchildren being cared for by their grandparents on a daily basis would not be counted towards the cap of 2 distinct visitors per household, or to the number of social gatherings per day. However grandparents are strongly encouraged to be vaccinated against COVID-19, to protect both themselves and their grandchildren from COVID-19 infection.
B) Minimising Workplace Interactions
Work-from-home will be the default at workplaces. Employers must ensure that employees who are able to work from home do so. There should continue to be no cross-deployment of workers to multiple worksites. The ministry urge employers to stagger start times of employees who need to return to the workplace and implement flexible working hours. Social gatherings at the workplace will not be allowed. Employees may have meal breaks at the workplace, but refrain from intermingling with their colleagues when their masks are taken off.
C) Cessation of Indoor “Mask-Off” Activities
To reduce risks of community transmission, indoor “mask-off” activities such as dine-in F&B establishments will cease during this period. Other activities which will also not be allowed during this period include strenuous indoor exercise class or strenuous individual and group indoor sports and exercise activities.
In addition, personalised services which require masks to be removed (e.g. facials and saunas), singing, and the playing of instruments that require intentional expulsion of air (e.g. wind or brass instruments) will also not be allowed. These restrictions will not apply to medical and dental consultations that require patients to have their masks off.
Cessation of Dine-in Food and Beverage (F&B). Dine-in F&B establishments are a higher-risk setting as customers often dine for prolonged periods in close proximity with one another with their masks-off. To reduce the risk of community transmission, dine-in F&B establishments (including hawker centres and foodcourts), both indoor and outdoor, will only be able to offer takeaway and delivery options.
Reduction of Activity and Event Sizes and Pre-Event Testing Requirements. To minimise the likelihood of large cluster formations, event sizes will be further scaled down and event size caps lowered. Pre-event testing (PET) remains an essential measure to help ensure that events can proceed safely for attendees.
a. Congregational and other worship services. Congregational and other worship services may continue with a reduced capacity of 50 attendees at any one time without PET, or up to 100 attendees at any one time with PET implemented. To further mitigate the risk of spread through aerosol transmissions, religious workers and all other participants must wear their masks at all times. Live singing and playing of wind instruments will also be suspended during this period.
b. Shopping malls and showrooms. The occupancy limits for shopping malls and showrooms will be further reduced from the current limit of 10sqm per person of Gross Floor Area (GFA), to 16sqm per person. Odd and even date entry restrictions on Sundays for popular malls will continue.
c. Attractions and shows. The operating capacity of attractions that have received MTI’s prior approval will be reduced to 25% from the current permissible capacity of 50%. Indoor and outdoor shows may proceed with up to 100 persons with PET, and up to 50 persons without PET.
d. Museums and public libraries. Museums and public libraries will be allowed to operate at a reduced capacity of 25%.
e. Cinemas. Up to 100 persons may be allowed into cinema halls with PET implemented. Without PET, only up to 50 persons may be allowed. The prevailing group size of 2 persons applies, and food and beverages may not be sold or consumed in the cinema.
f. MICE and live performances. Up to 100 persons may be allowed with PET, and up to 50 persons may be allowed without PET. Unmasking is not allowed for speakers and performers, and there should be no singing or playing of instruments that require intentional expulsion of air (e.g. wind and brass instruments).
g. Wedding receptions and solemnisations.
- In line with measures on dine-in F&B establishments, wedding receptions will not be allowed.
- Marriage solemnisations may continue for up to 100 participants with PET and 50 participants without PET.
h. Funerals. The cap for attendees applicable to all days of the funeral, including the burial/ cremation, is 20 persons or less, down from 30 persons currently. Attendees are reminded to maintain safe distancing and keep masks on at all times to reduce the risk of transmission.
Targeted Support Measures
A) Enhanced Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) Support for F&B Firms
In view of the cessation of dining-in at F&B establishments, the Government will increase the JSS support rate to 50% of the first $4,600 of gross monthly wages paid to local employees during the period for which dining-in is prohibited. This is an increase from the 10% support for wages paid up to June 2021.
B) One-Month Rental Relief for Hawker Centres and Coffeeshops on Government-owned Premises
To support hawkers and coffeeshop stallholders, who are self-employed and do not benefit from the JSS, the Government will provide one month of rental waiver for hawker stall and coffeeshop tenants of Government agencies. The government urge commercial landlords to support their F&B tenants through this period.
Use of Face Shields
Face shields should not be used as a substitute for mask wear, except for medical exceptions; or where the child is 12 years or younger; or for the marriage couple during the solemnisation of their marriage.
Expansion of Testing Strategy
For swifter detection of possible cases, Antigen Rapid Testing (ART) will be used for all who present themselves with ARI symptoms at our Swab and Send Home (SASH) Public Health Preparedness Clinics (PHPCs), Polyclinics, Emergency Departments and Regional Swab Centres (RSCs). This ART will be done together with the PCR test that all such patients are already subjected to. Both the ART and PCR tests will be funded by the Government for all individuals with ARI symptoms.
While the ART is less accurate than the PCR test, and there will be more false positives and false negatives, the ART’s quicker turnaround time compared to a PCR test will allow the government to take any public health actions more quickly for persons who test positive by ART.
This enhanced testing regime will be rolled out progressively, starting with around 200 SASH PHPCs that are already licensed as ART providers from 15 May 2021, and will be expanded to include all SASH PHPCs through May alongside Polyclinics, Emergency Departments in hospitals, and RSCs.