SINGAPORE: On-site meals will be suspended and group size for social gatherings will drop to two as Singapore returns to phase 2 (heightened alert) to fight an increase in local cases of COVID-19.
The measures will be in effect from Thursday, July 22 to August 18, and will replace the measures introduced on Monday, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said in a press release.
The government will review the measures in two weeks and adjust them depending on the situation at that time, the ministry added.
The COVID-19 multi-ministerial working group has decided not to differentiate measures for those who are fully vaccinated, but will consider doing so when vaccination rates are higher or when the situation has stabilized, the group co-chair said. working Gan Kim Yong in a press conference Tuesday.
âWe know this news is extremely disappointing and frustrating for many, especially for companies in industries such as F&B. These sectors have been hit very hard given previous restrictions, they have worked very hard to adapt to changing regulations, âsaid Mr. Gan, who is also Minister of Trade and Industry.
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Starting Thursday, group sizes for social gatherings will drop from five to two.
There will also be a cap of two separate visitors per household per day. People should continue to limit their social gatherings to no more than two a day, the health ministry said in its press release.
Similar to the previous period of phase 2 (enhanced alert) from May 16 to June 13, grandchildren cared for daily by their grandparents will not be taken into account in the ceiling for the number of visitors or social gatherings .
âGrandparents are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated against COVID-19, to protect themselves and their grandchildren. To reduce the risk of transmission, grandparents should also minimize mixing between grandchildren from different households, âthe ministry said.
All F&B establishments, including hawking centers and food courts, may only offer take-out and delivery options from Thursday.
Working group co-chair Lawrence Wong acknowledged that many companies have been eagerly awaiting the reopening and have been prepared to differentiate their customers based on vaccine status.
âI’m sure (they) would be very disappointed to know that they now have to shut down and cannot allow customers to dine, especially for our F&B operators,â he said.
Returning to phase 2 (enhanced alert) was “a very difficult decision to make” and one that the working group deliberated on, Wong said.
âBut based on the assessment of how the cases have developed, the many clusters that we see and how it is likely to have spread in the community, we decided that we needed to put in place something to slow down the transmission.
“The general message to everyone under phase 2 (heightened alert) is to stay at home, minimize your travel and social interactions as much as possible,” said Wong, also the finance minister.
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Other masked activities, such as intense indoor exercise classes or individual and group indoor sports and physical activities, should cease.
Services and activities requiring the removal of masks – facials and saunas, singing and playing wind or brass instruments – will also not be allowed.
The restrictions will not apply to medical and dental consultations that require patients to remove their masks. But non-medical facials will not be exempt.
People who work in environments with unmasked clients, such as F&B staff, have been on the mandatory quick and easy testing regime since mid-July. They do not have to take COVID-19 testing during Phase 2 (Enhanced Alert) if their business operations are suspended.
For businesses that remain open, including F&B outlets offering deliveries and take out, staff should continue with the 14-day testing requirements. Testing will continue to be free for them during this time.
Responding to a question about the two-week suspension of nightlife operators that has passed at the F&B restaurant, Mr Wong said the suspension allows authorities to study “in more detail” the safety management measures by square.
A “risk-based approach” will be adopted for these pivotal businesses, he said. Businesses that strictly adhere to safe management measures may be allowed to resume operations after two weeks.
“Some of them where there are more questions and the agencies are not convinced that they are able to strictly comply with the measures, we can take a little longer,” he said, adding that government agencies may have discovered violations in their inspections. .
“If there are operators with existing violations, then we can even revoke the license and not allow them to continue operating.”
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NO CARRIAGE SERVICES
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said in a separate statement on Tuesday that the updated group size restrictions would apply to passengers in taxis and private rental cars. More than two passengers can only travel together if they all live in the same household.
All forms of carpooling services will also be suspended during the phase 2 period (heightened alert). These include services such as GrabHitch and RydePool.
Social carpooling is only allowed between friends or colleagues if the current allowed group size of two people is respected, LTA said.
LTA also reminded all commuters to wear their masks at all times.
“When traveling on public transport, commuters should try to stand out from each other or travel as much as possible during off-peak times,” he added.
âTHE PUBLIC HEALTH SITUATION HAS CHANGEDâ: NGO YE KUNG
The government previously believed that as long as the number of COVID-19 cases remained around 40 to 60 per day, Singapore could “maintain the posture” while keeping the clusters in check, the health minister and co-chair of the Ong Ye Kung working group.
âUnfortunately, every day makes a difference, and the public health situation has changed in a matter of days,â he added.
The health ministry said the current wave of infections is affecting a “wider spectrum of the population,” including many older people.
âAt the current rate of transmission, it is likely that the cases of infection will increase sharply, and many people in the community will catch the virus. While almost 50% of the population has completed their vaccination schedule, there are still a number of vulnerable people, such as our elderly, who have not yet started to be vaccinated, âhe said.
âUnvaccinated people are at a higher risk of being infected and at a higher risk of being seriously ill if they are infected. Therefore, in the meantime, we must act decisively to contain the current epidemic and minimize the risk of our hospital capacity being overwhelmed, as we rush to vaccinate those who have not completed or started their vaccination. “
Singapore is “a few weeks” away from fully immunizing two-thirds of its population, Ong said.
“Now is really not the time to risk everything. We need to shoot that bullet, go back to social activities, and then use that time to move immunization efforts forward.”
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