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MOH: All Singapore employers should facilitate telecommuting for employees to WFH

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After implementing tough border control measures, that include restricted entry for work pass holders, Singapore has also announced additional safe distancing measures to reduce the risk of further local transmission of COVID-19, especially for vulnerable segments of the population.

As such, employers have been “strongly advised” to put in place measures to reduce close physical interactions amongst employees.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) has stated: “All employers should facilitate telecommuting for their employees to work from home. Tele-conferencing should also be used in place of physical meetings wherever possible.”

For employees undertaking job roles or functions where telecommuting (also known as work from home arrangements) is not feasible, employers should take the following precautions, as advised by MOH:

  • Staggered working hours: Employers should implement staggered working hours (for both reporting and ending times) with minimally three one-hourly blocks and no more than 50% of total employees reporting to work within each one-hour block. Where possible, reporting and ending times should not coincide with peak-hour travel, especially if employees require the use of public transport.
  • Reduce duration and proximity of physical interactions: Employers should provide for physical spacing (of at least one metre apart) between work stations. If there is a need for physical meetings, the number of attendees should be limited and the duration shortened. Seats in meeting rooms should also be spaced at least a metre apart.
  • Defer non-critical events and scale down critical work events: For critical work events that cannot be deferred, employers must limit these to no more than 250 participants at any point in time and put in place measures to ensure separation of at least a metre between participants. These include meals and mingling during the event.

Additional measures and requirements on safe distancing

Events and gatherings

  • Between now and 30 June 2020, all events and gatherings with 250 or more participants in attendance at any one time must be suspended.
  • For events and gatherings with fewer than 250 participants, the following measures are necessary to ensure separation of at least a metre between participants: Spaced seating at events, and reducing mingling of participants such as during meal times.
  • Events and gatherings must also comply with the existing guidance, including:
    • Improving ventilation and advising participants to reduce contact with others;
    • Temperature and health screening measures, and turning away persons who are unwell; and
    • Measures to facilitate contact tracing if needed, such as obtaining contact details of participants.

Public venues

Operators of public venues required to implement the necessary precautionary measures to ensure separation of at least a metre between patrons. For example:

  • Queues (e.g. outside restaurants, at retail stores) should be kept fast-moving. This could be done by ensuring that all checkout counters are open, and encouraging self-checkout to minimise contact with counter staff.
  • Operators are encouraged to demarcate queues to ensure patrons queue at least a metre apart from one another;
  • F&B venues should maintain a distance of at least one metre between tables, and between seats. Where seats are fixed, including hawker centres, operators should ensure alternate seats are marked out; and
  •  Entertainment venues and attractions (e.g. cinemas/theatres, theme parks, casinos, museums and galleries) should adopt measures to ensure separation of at least a metre amongst patrons. This could include reducing operating capacity to provide more spacing, installing floor markers at queuing areas, and adopting chequerboard or alternate seating.

Measures for seniors

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), individuals who are of older age or have underlying conditions (e.g. heart disease, diabetes) have a higher risk of severe COVID-19 infection. In view of this, the Multi-Ministry Taskforce has taken extra precautions to safeguard the wellbeing of seniors”

  • Since 11 March, all senior-centric activities at community clubs, residents’ committees, Senior Activity Centres, Active Ageing Hubs, CREST Centres, Health Promotion Board and ActiveSG sport centres have been suspended for two weeks.
  • National Silver Academy (NSA) courses and volunteer programmes administered by the Council for Third Age have also been suspended.
  • These suspension will last till 7 April 2020.
  • Organisers should put in place extra precautions in preparation for the resumption of organised activities after 7 April.

As affirmed by MOH on these latest measures: “These safe distancing measures must be stepped up urgently in tandem with our parallel efforts to tighten our borders, and to quarantine and ring-fence any infection clusters.”

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