Employees who need to return to the workplace for ad-hoc reasons can only do so after testing negative via ART before returning onsite. Here's the full set of restrictions that will take place in the coming month.
Singapore is tightening its COVID-19 restrictions effective Monday (27 September 2021), up till 24 October 2021 (Sunday). This comes as a move to minimise the strain on the country's overall healthcare capacity, given the recent rise in COVID-19 infections.
As of 24 September 2021, 12pm, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has detected a total of 1,650 new cases of COVID-19 infection in Singapore, with 1,369 in the community, 277 in the migrant worker dormitories, and four imported cases.
The ministry noted: "If the infection continues at its current trajectory, we can expect to reach a daily count of 3,200 and beyond within the next 2 weeks. Beyond that, there is a range of possibilities, but we cannot rule out cases doubling further. To minimise the strain on our overall healthcare capacity, we will have to tighten measures before that happens."
That said, the ministry highlighted that there is no need return to Heightened Alert, rather there is a need to "do more to scale back social interactions further in order to slow down community transmissions and allow for better stability."
Thus, the following tightened restrictions will take place from Monday:
Work-from-home will be the default for employees who are able to work from home
During this period, the 10-day snap work-from-home regime will be suspended. There should continue to be no cross-deployment of workers to multiple worksites for those who need to go into worksites to work.
At the same time, social gatherings at the workplace will continue to be disallowed, and employers should continue to implement flexible working hours and stagger the start times of employees who need to return to the workplace.
Employees, contractors, and vendors who are unable to work from home are strongly encouraged to self-test weekly via an Antigen Rapid Test (ART) to keep infected employees from coming to work and keep their workplace safe.
Last, those who are able to work from home but need to return to the workplace for ad-hoc reasons may do so after testing negative via ART before returning onsite.
Two-person limit imposed for dine-in
Groups of up to two persons will be allowed to dine-in at regular F&B establishments if all the diners are fully vaccinated, down from the current five-person limit. Unvaccinated individuals with a valid negative pre-event test (PET) result, recovered individuals, and children aged 12 years and below may also be included in such groups of two, MOH stated.
The ministry stressed that F&B establishments that are not able to ensure that all dine-in patrons meet the criteria for full vaccination may only operate take-away and delivery services. "At this stage of the transition, entertainment such as live performances, recorded music, and videos/TV screening will continue to be prohibited. Patrons to F&B establishments are also reminded to adhere to all safe management measures and keep their masks on at all times except when eating or drinking."
It added that because hawker centres and coffee shops offer essential food services to the community, the concession to dine-in at these premises will remain at up to two persons, regardless of vaccination status.
Overall, the permissible group sizes for social gatherings will be reduced from a maximum of five persons to a maximum of two persons. Correspondingly, the maximum number of unique visitors per household will be reduced to two per day. "Individuals should continue to limit their overall number of social gatherings to not more than one per day, whether to another household, or meeting with friends and family members in a public place."
Event sizes and capacity to remain at up to 1,000 attendees, conditionally
Event sizes and capacity limits for congregational and other worship services, cinemas, MICE, live performances, spectator sport events will remain at up to 1,000 attendees if all are fully vaccinated. Otherwise, only up to 50 attendees will be allowed without PET. The concession for children aged 12 years and below, who cannot yet be vaccinated, will also apply for these events. Such unvaccinated children may be included in a group of up to two persons if the child is from the same household.
Meanwhile, marriage solemnisations may continue, seated in groups of up to two persons, if all are fully vaccinated. Home solemnisations will continue to be allowed with up to 10 attendees. Otherwise, only up to 50 attendees will be allowed without PET.
MOH shared: "We acknowledge that wedding couples have faced significant uncertainties over the past few months. Hence, as a special concession, wedding receptions may be allowed to continue with up to 250 attendees if all are fully vaccinated, and with a group size of up to five persons per table. All wedding guests must strictly abide by the safe management measures, and in particular maintain social distancing and avoid mingling with others beyond their own table. Given their higher vulnerability, we also strongly discourage unvaccinated individuals and the elderly from attending such events, as PET only reduces their risk to others but not the risk to themselves."
Home-based learning period will now be extended till 7 October 2021
As an added precaution, the home-based learning (HBL) period for all primary and Special Education (SPED) schools will now be extended till 7 October 2021 (previously 6 October), so students can continue to stay home for the rest of the week.
Private Education Institutions (PEIs) must also implement HBL for all students aged 12 years and below, from 27 September to 10 October 2021, although preschool services in PEIs may remain open. During this period, in-person tuition and enrichment classes for students aged 12 years and below must pivot online or otherwise be suspended.
Preschools, MOE kindergartens, KCare Services and Student Care Centres will remain open during this period but parents are encouraged to keep their children at home if they can.
A summary of the updates and relevant sectors can be found here.
Targeted support measures for affected sectors
With the above restrictions in place, the Government has announced a series of measures for affected sectors:
- An enhanced the Jobs Support Scheme support to 25% for the period of 27 September 2021 through 24 October 2021 for sectors significantly affected by the tightened measures. These include F&B, retail, cinemas, museums, art galleries, historical sites, family entertainment, tourism, gyms and fitness studios, and performing arts and arts education. More details here.
- A two-week rental waiver for qualifying tenants on Government-owned commercial properties. Qualifying tenant-occupiers and owner-occupiers of privately-owned commercial properties will also be given a two-week rental relief cash payout under the Rental Support Scheme. These will offset rent for half the duration of the stabilisation phase. More details on the RSS will be made available on the Inland Revenue Authority Singapore website.
- A two-week rental waiver for cooked food and market stallholders in centres managed by the National Environment Agency (NEA) or NEA-appointed operators.
- To support taxi and private hire car drivers, the Government will also extend the COVID-19 Driver Relief Fund payout at S$10 and S$5 per vehicle per day in October and November 2021 respectively.
The ministry noted that the total sum of the support measures is S$650mn, funded from the "higher-than-expected revenues collected to-date." There will be no further draw on past reserves.
Apart from the above, the MOH also shared that it will be expanding Singapore's booster vaccination strategy, based on recommendations by the Expert Committee on COVID-19 Vaccination (EC19V).
With this, from 4 October, persons aged 50 to 59 years, who have completed their vaccination regimen with two doses at least six months ago, will be progressively invited to receive their booster dose of a Pandemic Special Access Route (PSAR) mRNA vaccine. These individuals will receive an SMS with a personalised booking link sent to the mobile number that they had registered with for their first two doses, for them to book a new appointment. They may receive their booster dose at any vaccination centre, polyclinic, or participating Public Health Preparedness Clinic.
Additionally, based on EC19V recommendations and to ensure the efficient use of vaccines, from 25 September 2021, vaccination sites carrying the Moderna vaccine will begin administering the vaccine at a dosage of 50mcg for booster doses, as compared to the 100mcg dose used in the primary vaccination course. There are no safety concerns in persons who have already received 100mcg of the Moderna vaccine for their booster dose, MOH highlighted.
The 100mcg dose of the Moderna vaccine will continue to be used for the two-dose primary series vaccination regimen, and three-dose enhanced primary series for immunocompromised persons. For the Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty vaccine, there is no change in dosage for both the primary series and the booster dose.
Lead photo / 123RF