Additionally, employers will be enforced to set in place a 14-day WFH period for all staff in the situation that one or more of the employees are infected and have returned to the workplace.
Singapore is setting stricter workplace safe management measures from Wednesday (8 September 2021), in lieu of the recent spike in COVID-19 workplace clusters.
In a statement on Monday (6 September), the Multi-Ministry Taskforce (MTF) said: "We have observed that the recent clusters in workplace settings have taken place because of lax safe management measures, especially in areas like staff canteens and pantries where people tend to let their guard down and interact amongst themselves without their masks on."
Thus, the following tighter measures will apply:
From 8 September, social gatherings and social interactions will be banned at workplaces.
Additionally, tougher action will be taken if positive cases arise amongst infected workers. In particular, employers will be required to put in place a maximum work-from-home (WFH) requirement over a 14-day period, if one or more of their workers are infected and have returned to the workplace.
What this means is - everyone in the company who can WFH, will be required to do so; and those who are WFH should minimise social gatherings and leave their homes only for essential activities during the 14-day period. More details on this will be released by the Ministry of Manpower.
Companies to initiate weekly COVID-19 testing for onsite staff
Apart from the above, the MTF shared that sectors that are not already on mandatory Rostered Routine Testing (RRT) will be soon be required to initiate weekly testing for their onsite staff, in efforts to step up regular testing.
In line with this, the MTF will undertake a time-limited distribution of ART kits to these companies, offering each company eight kits per onsite employee, for weekly testing of their staff over a two-month period.
"With these kits, we expect all companies to initiate weekly testing for their onsite staff. These tests can be administered by the individuals themselves at home, or at the work premises. But employers should put in place a process to ensure that the tests are done properly, and report the results to respective Government Agencies."
More details on this will be shared at a later date.
For sectors already on mandatory RRT - given the rate of increase in community spread, the MTF will be increasing the frequency of the mandatory Fast and Easy Test (FET) RRT regime from once every fortnight to once a week, starting 13 September (Monday), which will allow quicker detections and ring-fencing of cases. "This is particularly important given the infectiousness of the Delta variant, as observed locally where there have been shorter periods between each generation of infection."
The mandatory FET RRT is now in place for higher-risk settings such as F&B, personal care services, and gym and fitness studios, and will be extended to more settings with frequent community interactions. This includes retail mall workers, supermarket staff, last-mile delivery personnel (including parcel and food delivery personnel), and public and private transport workers (taxi drivers, private hire car drivers and all public transport frontline staff).
All workers who have to go to work in such settings must also undergo a seven-day FET RRT regime, and these tests will continue to be administered primarily through Employer Supervised Self-Swab. The MTF added that the government will subsidise the costs of all tests under this enhanced surveillance regime, for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, until the end of 2021.
The relevant Government Agencies will release more details on the enhanced surveillance regime at a later date.
The Taskforce stressed that testing alone is not enough. "We must also all continue to practise socially responsible behaviour: visit a doctor if feeling unwell, and self-isolate and not report to work. Employers are also strongly encouraged to remind your employees to visit a doctor if feeling unwell and not report to work, and to work out business continuity plans to cater to the scenario of positive cases in your workplace if it occurs despite your best efforts to ask them to stay at home if unwell."
Health risk warnings and alerts to be issued in efforts to contain clusters
In more general updates for the public, the MTF has shared that it will continue strengthening public health actions to reduce the spread of the infection.
As part of this, once a new cluster of COVID-19 cases is identified, the Ministry of Health will issue Health Risk Warnings (HRW) and Health Risk Alerts (HRA) to individuals to cast a wide net around the cases, and to contain the clusters quickly. This will be in addition to the quarantine of close contacts.
"With more cases circulating in the community, there will also be more people being issued such HRWs or HRAs."
What to do if you are issued a HRW or HRA
If you are issued the HRW
An individual who receives a HRW will be required by law to get a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test and self-isolate until they receive a negative result from their first test.
They will also be required to do ART tests thereafter, and a PCR test on the 14th day.
If you are issued the HRA
An individuals who receives a HRA is not subject to actions required by the law, but is strongly encouraged to go for a PCR test as soon as possible.
For both HRW and HRA, individuals should reduce their social interactions for 14 days.
Speaking at a doorstop interview on Monday, with the announcement of the above measures, Finance Minister and Co-chair of the MTF Lawrence Wong said: "With all of these measures we hope that we can help to slow down transmission, without having to go back to the heightened alert, or the circuit breaker. As I said last week, these are last resort measures and we will try our best to refrain from using them.
"But we should not rule them out entirely. If, despite our best efforts, we continue to see or we see serious cases in ICU or needing oxygen going up sharply, then we may have no choice but to adopt a more tightened posture."
Lead photo / 123RF