Singapore tightens Covid-19 measures from May 16: 10 questions on the new rules answered

SINGAPORE – Singapore will impose further restrictions on social activities from Sunday (May 16), in an effort to stem the spread of Covid-19 cases in the community.

The new measures – which stop short of a second circuit breaker – mean gatherings will be capped at two people and dining in prohibited until June 13.

Work from home will be the default mode, while rules on events will be tightened.

The Government will review the new measures in two weeks, and may further tighten the rules if the situation worsens.

Here’s how the new measures announced on Friday (May 14) may affect you:

1. Can I still meet my friends for dinner?

People will be allowed out in groups of only two from May 16 until June 13, with dining in prohibited.

Households will also not be allowed to receive more than two distinct visitors per day. Individuals should continue to cap their social gatherings at two a day as well.

Eateries and hawker centres will offer only takeaway and delivery during this period to reduce the risk of transmission.

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2. Am I expected to go back to office?

Work from home will be the default mode. Employers must ensure that employees who are able to work from home do so.

Those who need employees to return to the workplaces should have staggered start times and flexible working hours for staff.

Social gatherings at the workplaces will not be allowed.

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3. Can I still visit the shopping malls or attractions?

The occupancy limits for shopping malls will be further reduced from the current limit of 10 sq m per person of gross floor area, to 16 sq m per person. Odd and even date entry restrictions on Sunday for popular malls will continue.

The operating capacity of places of attractions with approval will be cut to 25 per cent from the current 50 per cent.

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4. Do I need to stock up on groceries?

There is no need to do so.

All retail outlets, including supermarkets, will remain open during the period of tightened measures from May 16 to June 13.

“Our stocks are adequate. Our supply lines are intact,” said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing. “Let us continue to remember to buy only what we need and look out for the more vulnerable among us.”

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5. Is it safe for me to take the train or bus?

Public transport can be kept “very safe” with a range of precautions taken by both operators and commuters, said Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung.

For instance, the air on the MRT train is being replenished every six minutes, not counting the opening and closing of train doors.

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6. Given the spike in community cases, will the Government make vaccination mandatory in order to urgently achieve herd immunity?

Herd immunity is not something that Singapore can rely solely on to control the spread of Covid-19 infections, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong.

Vaccination, he said, is but one tool in a suite of measures to fight the disease. “There will be some who cannot be vaccinated because of medical conditions. And while it protects against severe disease, it doesn’t totally stop infection or transmission.”

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7. Are there other measures being taken?

Antigen rapid tests (ARTs) will be used for those who have acute respiratory infection symptoms, on top of the current polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.

This will allow swifter detection of possible cases.

ARTs can produce results in around 30 minutes and can be done on site. With PCRs, the swabs have to be transported to the labs, which adds to the wait of around two hours for results.

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8. There have been many cases linked to the Changi Airport cluster. What happened?

Workers infected with Covid-19 at Changi Airport had mainly been working in one zone that had received travellers from higher-risk regions, including South Asia.

Mr Ong, the Transport Minister, said that the airport identified this trend after studying the 20-plus initial infections at the airport cluster.

“Most (of these infections) in fact congregate around one zone,” he said.

The zone is the Changi Airport cluster’s equivalent of Ward 9D at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, where several people were initially found to be infected.

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9. What about the recent Covid-19 cases among students?

There is no evidence of school-based Covid-19 transmission so far, said Education Minister Lawrence Wong.

Most students who were reported to have tested positive recently are linked to a tutor in a private tuition school.

Safe management measures in schools have been tightened. For example, the Ministry of Education will no longer allow face shields as a substitute for mask wearing.

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10. Will the air travel bubble with Hong Kong still go ahead?

The air travel bubble – slated to take off on May 26 – is likely to be delayed yet again.

It is very likely that Singapore will not be able to meet the resumption criteria.

The authorities will closely monitor the numbers, and make a decision early next week.

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