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Return to the office soon? MOH advises employers to enable off-peak commuting post 0930 hours for employees

Return to the office soon? MOH advises employers to enable off-peak commuting post 0930 hours for employees

In the daily briefing of Singapore's Multi-Ministry Taskforce (MMF) on COVID-19 guidelines, the authorities have provided a possible path to enable more workers to return to workplaces safely. 

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) is working with tripartite partners on the next phase of Safe Management Measures (SMMs) for workplaces, given that many employers have sought guidance on ways to enable more employees to return to the workplace safely. 

As such, the MMF has urged employers "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."

Since Singapore entered Phase Two post the Circuit Breaker, telecommuting or working from home has remained the default. 

Management of dormitory cases

In further measures on the safe re-opening of the nation, 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. These include:

  1. To prevent the spread and formation of large clusters: MOM has put in place “Safe Living, Safe Working and Safe Rest Day” measures. Before dormitory residents are allowed to return to work, the dormitory operators have to implement various physical distancing measures 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, so that residents who are unwell are quickly isolated and provided with medical treatment.
  2. To swiftly detect new cases of infection: MOM has deployed a number of strategies including:
    • Self-monitoring by migrant workers and regular updating of their health status;
    • Close monitoring of workers who report sick at medical posts with acute respiratory illnesses;
    • Conducting wastewater testing at selected dormitories for traces of the virus as a means of early sentinel surveillance; and
    • Conducting Rostered Routine Testing (RRT) for dormitory residents every 14 days.
  3. 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.

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. 

Enhancement to TT Programme and SafeEntry

The MTF will be enhancing the TraceTogether (TT) Programme and SafeEntry to facilitate rapid and comprehensive contact tracing, so as to mitigate risks of onward transmission and formation of large clusters.

As such, the Government will commence nation-wide distribution of the TT Tokens from 14 September 2020, with the aim to complete the distribution by November. The TT Token is available for free for all residents in Singapore.

The distribution will start 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.

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.

To facilitate contact tracing efforts, there will be a pilot for the deployment of SafeEntry that requires the use of either the TT App or Token to check in at selected venues. 

This TT-only SafeEntry will first be piloted at selected venues, and will be expanded over time. 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.

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.

Further, from 10 September, a new Self-Check service and SMS service will be introduced to alert people if they have visited the same venues at the same time as COVID-19 cases, based on their own SafeEntry records.

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.

Enforcement of Safe Management Measures (SMM) breaches at F&B outlets

Affirming that 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; MMF has continued 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.

So far, 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.

Important to note is that thus far, agencies have typically issued warnings for the first offence. However, 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.

MOH stated: "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."

Photo / 123RF

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