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09 Sep 2020

9th Sep 2020

               The Multi-Ministry Taskforce (MTF) has been closely monitoring the local and global COVID-19 situation. While local community transmission is currently low, we cannot let our guard down. The MTF will continue to review the latest evidence on COVID-19, and put in place strategies to manage new infections at the dormitories, ensure a calibrated safe reopening of activities including enhancing our TraceTogether (TT) programme and SafeEntry, and safe reopening of our borders.

Management of Dormitory Cases

2.             We have observed cases of COVID-19 infections among the cleared dormitories. The dormitory residents who have never been infected remain susceptible to COVID-19. Since the dormitories were declared cleared on 11 August, there have been about 45 of such cases daily. These were detected primarily through active surveillance testing such as Rostered Routine Testing (RRT), and through aggressive tracing and testing whenever a new case is detected. About 2% of these cases have positive serological tests, which indicate past infections.

3.             The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has put in place a multi-layered strategy to detect any new COVID-19 cases in the dormitories and to contain infections quickly and decisively:

a.    To prevent the spread and formation of large clusters, MOM has put in place “Safe Living, Safe Working and Safe Rest Day” measures in the dormitories. Before dormitory residents are allowed to return to work, the dormitory operators have to implement various physical distancing measures in the dormitories to limit inter-mixing of residents across rooms, levels and blocks, as well as when using common facilities and during transport to and from worksites. Dormitory operators must also monitor their residents’ health and take necessary precautions, so that residents who are unwell are quickly isolated and provided with medical treatment.

b.    To swiftly detect new cases of infection, MOM has deployed a number of strategies including (i) self-monitoring by migrant workers and regular updating of their health status; (ii) close monitoring of workers who report sick at medical posts with acute respiratory illnesses; (iii) conducting wastewater testing at selected dormitories for traces of the virus as a means of early sentinel surveillance; and (iv) conducting RRT for dormitory residents every 14 days. In particular, the RRT has helped to pick up new COVID-19 cases in the dormitories. It is therefore critical for employers to enrol all their workers who are required to be tested under the RRT.

c.     If a new case is detected, MOM will quickly ring-fence and test close contacts to contain its spread. Close contacts will be quarantined and must be tested negative at the end of their quarantine period before they are able to return to work. Aggressive testing operations will also be conducted within the dormitories based on an assessment of the risk of potential spread.

4.             MOM will continue to update and adjust its multi-layered strategy to proactively manage cases in the dormitory, in consultation with health experts as new insights are gained about how the virus spreads. MOM will also continue to engage employers and dormitory operators on the measures to safeguard our migrant workers. 

Enhancement to TT Programme and SafeEntry

5.             To support the safe and gradual resumption of activities, the MTF will also be enhancing the TT Programme and SafeEntry to facilitate rapid and comprehensive contact tracing, so as to mitigate risks of onward transmission and formation of large clusters.

TT Token Distribution to the General Public

6.             To enable more Singapore residents to be protected by the TT Programme, the Government will commence nation-wide distribution of the TT Tokens from 14 September 2020, and we aim to complete the distribution by November. The TT Token is available for free for all residents in Singapore. We encourage every resident in Singapore to either download the TT App onto their mobile phone, or to collect a TT Token. A higher adoption rate makes the TT programme and contact tracing efforts more efficient and effective.

7.             We will begin distribution starting with the Jalan Besar and Tanjong Pagar regions, where there is a higher concentration of elderly who may have more challenges using the TT App and are more vulnerable to COVID-19. Collection points will be extended throughout Singapore progressively. Residents can go to the TokenGoWhere website (https://token.gowhere.gov.sg) for more details on the collection sites and timing. Those who wish to collect the Token earlier can visit any of the active collection sites listed on the TokenGoWhere website to do so.

Pilot TraceTogether-Only SafeEntry Check-in for Designated Places

8.             To facilitate contact tracing efforts, we will be piloting the deployment of SafeEntry that requires the use of either the TT App or Token to check in at selected venues, to facilitate the further easing of measures at these settings.

9.             This “TT-only SafeEntry” will first be piloted at selected venues, and will be expanded over time, once the national distribution of the TT tokens is well under way. These could include venues where there may be larger groups coming together, especially where there is close interaction among attendees; or where masks may not be worn at all times due to the nature of the activities. Supplementing SafeEntry with proximity data from TT will enhance safety for participants, as they will be ensured of coverage under the TT Programme. This will ensure better confidence in mitigating the risk of formation of large clusters, and could allow for a safer increase in capacity limits at these events and premises with any potential future easing of measures. This was trialled at the first Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) event held at the end of August, with more pilots starting progressively from September 2020.

New Service launched to Self-Monitor Health based on SafeEntry Records

10.          From 10 September, we will introduce a new Self-Check service and SMS service so that people can be alerted if they have visited the same venues at the same time as COVID-19 cases, based on their own SafeEntry records.

11.          Self-Check service will be available on the TraceTogether app. Individuals can also access the Self-Check service via SingPass Mobile, or wereyouthere.safeentry.gov.sg (with SingPass login). In addition, from 10 September, SMS alerts will be sent to a smaller group of individuals who were at locations assessed to pose a higher risk of transmission at the same time as COVID-19 cases. These include dining places and gyms where people do not wear masks for extended periods of time.

12.          These features will help everyone to play their part to stay ahead of the pandemic, and keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. The Smart Nation and Digital Government Group (SNDGG) will be providing more details on the various TT and SafeEntry measures in a separate press release.  

Safe Re-opening of Activities

Enabling More Workers to Return to Workplaces Safely

13.          MOM is working with tripartite partners on the next phase of Safe Management Measures (SMMs) for workplaces. As we gradually resume more economic activities, many employers have sought guidance on ways to enable more employees to return to the workplace safely so as to better support work and business operations. With increased interactions at the workplace, the risk of COVID-19 transmission increases. Therefore it is critical that employers implement their safe management measures seriously, and ensure that safe distancing is adhered to.

14.          Further, employers need to implement flexible workplace hours, so that a good part of workers are able to travel off-peak, i.e. after 0930 hours. This would help to mitigate the risk of crowding in public places as well as office buildings with more individuals commuting to and from work especially during peak hours. It is in the interest of the employers to protect your workers against the risk of COVID-19. Otherwise, if a cluster is formed at the workplace, it would disrupt business severely.

Stepping up Enforcement of SMM Breaches at Food and Beverage (F&B) outlets

15.          We remain very concerned about SMM breaches at F&B outlets. Dining out is an activity that involves considerable risks because people are gathered together in an enclosed space, without their masks on, and for a prolonged duration. That is why the SMMs are in place to ensure that our F&B outlets can be safe spaces for all.  While the majority are complying with the rules, we continue to observe SMM breaches at some F&B outlets, especially those at popular nightspots. These breaches include the sale and consumption of alcohol after 10.30pm, individuals not wearing masks as required, gathering in groups of more than five and intermingling between groups (especially in a private room), seating customers less than one-metre apart, and the playing of loud music.

16.          For example, Enterprise Singapore fined five establishments for failing to ensure a minimum one-metre safe distance between groups of diners on 6 September 2020; Singapore Food Agency (SFA) issued fines and suspended the operations of a bar and two restaurants for SMM breaches last week, and Singapore Tourism Board (STB) ordered a restaurant to cease operations for flouting SMMs on 5 September 2020. Since the start of Phase II, around 20 F&B establishments have been suspended.

17.          We will continue to step up enforcement checks at F&B outlets and will take appropriate action against businesses and individuals who breach the SMMs. Thus far, agencies have typically issued warnings for the first offence. By now, sufficient time has been given for everyone to adjust to the SMMs.  So with immediate effect, agencies will take enforcement actions even for the first offenders. This will be in the form of a fine or a closure of the premise, depending on the severity of the offence.  For example, if there are multiple breaches of SMMs in any one place, we will require the premise to be closed and also surface the case to the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) for possible prosecution. We urge premise owners to ensure SMMs are properly implemented and members of the public to be socially responsible, and do their part to observe the SMMs.

Requiring Pre-Departure Tests (PDT) for Travellers from India

18.          We have been closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation in India. There have been reports of a resurgence of infections in India. Singapore has also observed a significant number of imported cases with recent travel history to India.

19.          To reduce the risk of importation of cases from India, travellers who are not Singapore Citizens or Permanent Residents and who have recent travel history to India within the last 14 days prior to entry will be required to take a COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test within 72 hours before departure. Travellers will need to present a valid negative COVID-19 test result as a condition of approval to enter Singapore. This requirement will take effect for those arriving in Singapore from 17 September 2020, 0000 hours, and will apply on top of the existing requirements of a 14-day Stay-Home Notice (SHN) at dedicated SHN facilities and a negative COVID-19 test before the end of their SHN.

20.          As the global situation evolves, we will continue to adjust our border measures to manage the risk of importation and any onward transmission to the community. Travellers planning to enter Singapore should be prepared to be subjected to the prevailing border measures upon entry, including payment for their stay at dedicated SHN facilities and tests, where applicable.

Everyone Plays a Part

21.          To keep Singapore COVID-safe, everyone, including individuals and business owners, will need to play their part, by adhering to the safe distancing measures and SMMs in place. We also urge everyone to see a doctor if they are unwell. Together, we can ensure continued safe reopening of activities and borders, while keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe.