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18 Jun 2021

18th Jun 2021

            The Multi-Ministry Taskforce (MTF) had earlier announced a calibrated reopening to Phase 3 (Heightened Alert) starting with Stage 1 on Monday, 14 June 2021, and a further reopening with Stage 2 on Monday, 21 June 2021. The MTF would like to thank all Singaporeans and residents for their efforts in ensuring a safe and gradual transition. While the collective efforts of Singaporeans over the past few weeks have helped slow the chains of transmission, unlinked cases continue to emerge. These suggest that undetected community transmission persists. Hence, we must continue to exercise good hygiene habits, remain vigilant and carefully recalibrate our reopening to keep our community safe.

Update on Local Situation

2.         Since the start of Stage 1 of our calibrated reopening, we have seen a small and persistent number of unlinked cases which have the potential to spark larger clusters, such as the one around 115 Bukit Merah View Market and Food Centre. To reduce the risk of further spread and ringfence possible emerging transmissions arising from this cluster, we have carried out special testing operations for all staff and tenants working at 115 and 116 Bukit Merah View, and extended free COVID-19 testing to members of the public who had visited these two blocks on days when the infectious individuals had also been present.

3.         To protect groups who frequently interact with members of our community, we have offered prioritised vaccinations since March 2021 to those who work in hawker centres and markets. We encourage eligible individuals working in such settings, who are medically eligible, to come forward for vaccination.

Updated Approach to Gradual Reopening to Phase 3 (Heightened Alert)

4.         Due to the persistence of such undetected community transmission cases, we are calibrating our reopening plans. From 21 June 2021, higher-risk activities such as dining-in at F&B establishments and indoor mask-off sports/exercise will only be allowed to resume in group sizes of up to 2 persons, instead of up to 5 persons as previously announced. Concurrently, we will onboard staff in these settings as quickly as possible onto regular Fast and Easy Tests (FET), starting with using antigen rapid tests (ART). In the coming weeks, we will build up the capacity for FET, and expect a regular FET regime to be in place for those working in these settings by around mid-July. Hence, barring another superspreader event or big cluster, we will allow such activities to increase to group sizes of up to 5 persons from mid-July 2021 (date to be announced later).  

5.         The updated measures for F&B establishments, indoor-mask off activities, and wedding receptions are detailed in the following paragraphs (please refer to Annex A for full details on the updated measures, including for other activities where applicable):

6.         Resumption of Dining-In at F&B establishments. F&B establishments will be able to resume dining-in from 21 June 2021 in group sizes of up to 2 persons. This means that a group of more than 2 persons who are not from the same household is not allowed to dine-in together at F&B establishments, even if they are split across multiple tables. To further mitigate the risk of transmission from patrons talking loudly, recorded music will not be allowed in F&B establishments. This is in addition to the current restrictions on videos/TV screening and live entertainment at F&B establishments. F&B establishments are also reminded to strictly observe safe distancing of at least 1 metre between groups of diners, of no more than two persons per group, to lower the risk of transmission. Enforcement will be stepped up and we will take firmer enforcement action for any breaches of safe management measures. Patrons must keep their masks on at all times, except when eating or drinking.

7.         Wedding receptions. As wedding receptions are higher-risk activities where attendees tend to socialise more and over a longer period of time, wedding receptions will remain prohibited until mid-July 2021.

8.         Indoor mask-off sports/ exercise activities. Gyms and fitness studios may resume indoor mask-off sports/ exercise activities in group sizes of up to 2 persons, and in classes of up to 30 persons including the instructor, with safe distancing of at least 2m between individuals and 3m between groups. For mask-on activities and outdoor mask-off activities, these can continue in groups of no more than 5 persons, in classes of up to 30 persons including the instructor. SportSG will release more details on this.


Work-from-home Remains the Default

9.         As we transition through Phase 3 (Heightened Alert) in the coming weeks, we must control transmission risks by reducing overall interaction within workplaces, and in public places including public transport. Thus, work-from-home will continue to remain the default arrangement. Employers are reminded to ensure the practice continues, and for employees that need to come to the workplace, to stagger their start times and implement flexible working hours. There should continue to be no cross-deployment of workers to multiple worksites. For workplaces, social gatherings continue to be disallowed, and work-related events (e.g. product launches, townhalls) should continue to disallow F&B.


Targeted Support Measures

10.        In view of the continued tightened safe management measures of various activities until mid-July 2021, the Government will extend the current enhancements to the Jobs Support Scheme for affected sectors by 3 weeks before tapering it down to 10% for another 2 weeks (please refer to Annex B for details).

11.        To provide targeted support to hawkers who are self-employed, the Government will extend the subsidies for fees for table-cleaning and centralised dishwashing services, and provide rental waivers, till mid-July 2021 for stallholders in centres managed by NEA or NEA-appointed operators.

12.        To help other workers who remain affected by the extended tightened safe management measures, the Government will also extend the COVID-19 Recovery Grant (Temporary) [CRG-T] until 31 July 2021. Existing CRG-T recipients who continue to require assistance can also apply for a second tranche of CRG-T support in July. The Ministry of Social and Family Development will share more details.


Update on Phased Roll Out of Regular Fast and Easy Tests (FET) for Staff Involved in Higher-Risk Activities

13.        We will require all staff who work at settings with unmasked clients/patrons, or where there is prolonged contact between individuals, to be placed on a regular FET regime, using tests such as ART. These include staff of:
a.         Dine-in F&B establishments;
b.         Personal care services (e.g. facial and nail services, spas/ saunas, massage establishments, hairdressing, and make-up services); and
c.         Gyms and fitness studios where clients are unmasked.

14.        The regular 14-day FET requirement for staff at these settings will be made mandatory from around mid-July 2021. We expect that most of the FET can be done through a system of self-swabs supervised by the employer. To support establishments in their efforts to get started on FET, we have set up training programmes that companies can leverage to train supervisors in their establishments to supervise ART self-swabs for their staff. These supervisor training programmes will be provided at no cost to these establishments for the next 3 months. ART kits will also be made available to establishments for these employer supervised self-swabs.  Some F&B establishments have already sent their employees for training and are ready to implement regular testing progressively from 21 June 2021.

15.        There may be small businesses who are unable to organise the supervised self-swabs on their own. Hence we will also set up Quick Test Centres (QTCs) to support those who need to be tested.  We will start with one each at Tekka and Yishun which will be operational from 21 June 2021. More QTCs will be progressively set up. To further minimise the risks of transmission in these settings, the Government will also facilitate earlier vaccination of individuals who work in these settings.

16.        Agencies will provide more information on the regular FET requirements to the identified sectors.


Introduction of COVID-19 testing via ART for Visitors of Residential Care Homes Serving Elderly, upon the Resumption of Visits on 21 June 2021

17.        Visits to residential care homes serving elderly (“Homes”) had been suspended from 5 June 2021 through 20 June 2021 in light of the recent cases of community transmission. We have been working with the Homes to strengthen their existing suite of precautionary measures, including reviewing the visitor management and testing policies to safeguard the health of the seniors.

18.        To enhance existing visitor management measures when physical visits resume from 21 June 2021, visitors to Homes will need to take a FET at the Home and test negative prior to entry. Homes will be using ARTs for this purpose. We seek the patience and understanding of visitors that some Homes may require more time to put in place the necessary procedures for ART and will only be able to resume visits at a later date. Other Homes may start off with a smaller number of visitors to allow them to stabilise their operational processes before accommodating a larger number of visits. Visitors should continue to schedule visits with the Home ahead of time, and take into consideration the added time required to complete the ART.


Deployment of SafeEntry Gateway Check-Out Boxes

19.        In the coming weeks, to strengthen the TraceTogether (TT) and SafeEntry (SE) Programmes, which are critical digital tools to facilitate contact tracing and bring down community spread, SafeEntry Gateway (SEGW) Check-Out Boxes will also be rolled out progressively at venues with high footfall to facilitate SE check-outs. This follows public feedback from SEGW users who want to perform SE check-out, but are unable to do so currently. This will help to facilitate more precise contact tracing efforts.

20.        SEGW Check-Out Boxes will be deployed at venues with higher throughput of visitors (e.g. malls, hospitals and polyclinics), and places where individuals are likely to be in close proximity for prolonged periods with masks off (e.g. dine-in F&B outlets and gyms). Eligible businesses will be notified and will receive their SEGW Check-Out Boxes in the coming weeks.

21.        Members of the public are encouraged to perform SE check-out when leaving the premises as far as possible. This information will support the contact tracing process by providing more details for the identification of close contacts.


Strengthening Ringfencing Around Cases

22.        Given the increased transmissibility of viral strains, we will use TT and SE data to strengthen our ringfencing around cases to prevent large clusters from arising. This will give us greater confidence to resume more activities while preventing transmissions. As part of this measure, we will be sending ‘Health Alerts’ via SMS to individuals, who have visited hotspots on the same days as the infected persons, and may have been exposed to the virus. These individuals will be required to undergo mandatory testing at designated testing centres and stay isolated until they receive their results. While the risk of infection is lower if they were to test negative, they should continue to limit their interactions with others as an added precaution and restrict their activities to only those which are essential. In particular those who need to go to work (i.e. cannot work from home) will be allowed to do so. However, they must comply strictly with all the safe management measures at the workplace. Furthermore, at the testing centres, we will give them DIY test kits, which they will need to self-administer at home over the subsequent days to confirm that they are not infected. We will need all Singaporeans to play their part.  Further details will be announced when ready.


Keeping Our Community Safe

23.        The persistence of unlinked cases suggests that there are undetected cases in the community. Until we achieve a higher rate of vaccination within our population, public health measures such as testing, ringfencing, and calibrated reopenings continue to be our best defences against the virus. Individually, we must continue to observe all the safe management measures, practise good hygiene, and see a doctor and be tested when sick.

24.        In the coming few months, vaccination is our key enabler, both to reduce the risk of transmission, and to reduce the severity of disease for those who are unfortunately still infected. Its ability to help Singapore reopen safely can only be felt when we can collectively achieve a high level of population coverage for vaccination. Hence, we urge everyone who are eligible to be vaccinated when it is offered to you. It is only by working together, that we can emerge stronger and safer. 


MINISTRY OF HEALTH
18 JUNE 2021