Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Singapore's COVID-19 circuit breaker ends on 1 June 2020; economy to reopen in three phases

Ministers spell out road map to keep nation safe and restart businesses over next months
By Linette Lai, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 20 May 2020

Singapore's circuit breaker will formally end on June 1, as the country gradually restarts its economy in three phases over the next several months.

This will not mean a return to life before the coronavirus, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said yesterday, outlining the broad plan for the months ahead.

Singapore will proceed with caution in the first phase, where many existing restrictions will continue. This phase is expected to last at least four weeks.

If all goes well, it will then move into the second transitionary phase, which could spread over several months.

Further easing of measures would follow in the third phase, where a "new normal" will remain until an effective vaccine or treatment is found.

New cases are expected to rise as people gradually resume activities, and stricter measures could be implemented at any point if the situation worsens.

While some may be disappointed that they will not be able to go out freely and socialise at the end of the circuit breaker, the reopening needs to be done carefully, said Mr Wong at a press conference yesterday.

"We have to do this in a careful and calibrated manner as we don't want to risk a flaring up of the virus. And importantly, we do not want to sacrifice the efforts all of us have put into controlling the outbreak," he said.

He added that the Government will continue to support businesses and workers that are unable to open on June 2.

In the first phase, dubbed "safe reopening", about a third of Singapore's workers will be able to resume work at their workplaces, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing. The rest will continue to work from home.

"This will allow three-quarters of our economy to resume normal operations," he said.

Priority will be given to critical sectors and businesses that operate in settings with lower transmission risks. Those returning to their workplaces or offices include workers or staff who are required to use machinery or specialised terminals.

Meanwhile, retail stores will stay closed, and there will be no dining in at restaurants, during this period.

Schools will gradually reopen next month and certain healthcare services will resume. Places of worship will also reopen, but only for private worship.

Social gatherings will still be prohibited, although exceptions will be made for people visiting their parents or grandparents. Visits will be limited to one a day, with a maximum of two visitors who should be from the same household.

Singapore will move into the second phase if community transmission rates remain "low and stable" and the dormitory situation remains under control.

In this "safe transition" phase, people will gradually be able to resume more social activities. More businesses will be allowed to reopen, including retail outlets, gyms and fitness studios as well as tuition and enrichment centres.

In this phase, which could last several months, small social gatherings and dining in at food and beverage outlets may be allowed.

The idea is to take the country towards its new normal phase called "safe nation", in which social, cultural, religious and business gatherings are expected to resume. However, limits will be put in place on gathering sizes.

Similarly, places offering services that involve prolonged close contact, such as massages, or with crowds in enclosed spaces, such as cinemas, will reopen only with strict safety management measures in place.

On public transport, commuters will have to wear masks and refrain from talking.

Singapore will also gradually reopen its borders for essential travel. However, this will be carried out separately from the three phases of restarting its economy as the global situation remains volatile.

1 in 3 can return to work on-site as more firms reopen
More businesses allowed to resume on June 2 but most people to continue working from home
Businesses with lower transmission risks, little or no public interaction can restart first
By Aw Cheng Wei, The Straits Times, 20 May 2020

From June 2, more businesses can resume operations with about one-third of workers able to return to work on-site, as Singapore gradually eases restrictions imposed to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Among the first to get the nod to reopen will be businesses that operate in settings with lower transmission risks and with limited or no interaction with the public, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said yesterday.

These include manufacturing and production facilities in the semiconductor, medical technology and aerospace sectors, as well as wholesale trade and finance companies.

Such businesses will get a class exemption to reopen, which means they can do it without seeking permission.

But they must submit information on workers required on-site - for instance, those who need to use machinery or specialised terminals - via the GoBusiness portal, and do so within two weeks of reopening.

Most retail shops and personal services will stay shut.

Dining in will not be allowed.

But some limited consumer services can resume from June 2.

For instance, hairdressers and barbers can offer all hairdressing services. Motor vehicle servicing, air-conditioner servicing and basic pet services are also on the list, among others.

About one-third of the workers in Singapore are expected to resume work on-site from June 2, up from about 17 per cent now.

The rest will continue to work from home, said Mr Chan.

"This will allow more than three-quarters of our economy to resume their normal operations," he added.

Businesses must ensure that health and safety measures are in place. Mr Chan stressed that priority was given to workers' health and well-being in the ministry's decision to let some industries reopen.

Other factors it considered include the criticality of the sectors and the companies' interactions with the public, he added.

"We really need the companies and the workers to work together and take joint responsibility (because) we want a progressive resumption of work.

"We will not want a situation whereby we start and stop, moving back and forth, between the different settings," he said. "If there is an outbreak in a particular company, (then) we will have no choice but to shut down either that operation or that part of the operation."

Staggered work hours, a ban on interactions among workers from different teams and ensuring a requisite level of hygiene and cleanliness are among other measures that firms need to take.

Strict checks will be done to ensure businesses follow safe distancing and sector-specific measures.

Those that fail to provide a safe workplace will have their operations suspended until they meet the requirements, the Ministry of Trade and Industry said in an advisory issued yesterday.

It noted that "scheduled resumption of business activities from June 2 is ultimately dependent on the health situation".

"Should community transmission rise, the (ministry) will re-evaluate the timeline and the businesses that can resume operations," it added.

Businesses that are unsure if they can open next month can check the website

The Monetary Authority of Singapore said yesterday that financial institutions can reopen more customer service locations from June 2.

"This will be carried out with strict safe management requirements in place to minimise the risk of COVID-19 infections, in line with the Ministry of Health's three-phase approach to resume business operations," it added.

Curbs on dining in and meeting most kin to stay
By Yuen Sin, The Straits Times, 20 May 2020

Though the circuit breaker will end after June 1, restrictions on activities such as dining in and meeting friends and most kin will remain as Singapore enters the first phase of reopening its economy.

This will disappoint people but the measures are necessary to avoid any risk of the coronavirus flaring up again, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong at a virtual press conference yesterday.

"The feeling of being cooped up at home for a long period of time is starting to have its effect on people... But I hope we can all maintain our discipline for a while longer," added Mr Wong, co-chair of the multi-ministry task force tackling the pandemic.

He warned that "if we were to open up too quickly and allow all these social activities to restart, there is a risk the virus will flare up, and we might see many more cases and clusters forming".

The minister made the point when outlining the three phases of reopening after June 1.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, fellow co-chair of the task force, said it could take at least four weeks to exit the first phase and enter the second one, which is a transition stage that will see the resumption of some social activities.

The reason for adopting this timeframe is that Singapore will, by and large, need to observe the situation for two incubation periods - or 28 days - after it rolls back the existing circuit breaker measures, he said.

But it is not set in stone. Adjustments will be made along the way as the situation evolves.

"We don't have a crystal ball to see what's going to happen... But at the minimum, we are not likely to make major shifts in the first four weeks," said Mr Gan.

In deciding on the right time to move into the second phase, the Government will not just rely on the number of new cases, he added.

Rather, a "whole basket of factors" will be considered in assessing risk, including the nature of transmission of new cases.

The task force will also consult professionals to help judge whether Singapore is ready for the second phase, he added.

"It is not 'yes' and 'no', it's not a table that you tick off and then say, oh, we have passed all these and therefore we can move into phase two," he said.

Should the number of cases soar and big clusters emerge in the first phase, some of the circuit breaker measures will be reintroduced in a targeted way. But this hinges on which sector has a higher risk profile, he added.

The minister also said Singapore is prepared to see a rise in the number of cases initially as people interact more. But if, among other things, the number of cases remains low over a sustained period, then Singapore can consider going into the second phase, he added.

Mr Gan warned that the second phase could also last for several months - three months, six months or longer - depending on the situation.

Mr Wong said there will be two stages in the second phase.

The first stage will kick off with lower-risk activities.

These may include some limited social activities, including letting people gather in small groups and dining in at restaurants.

In the second stage, higher-risk activities - such as events, entertainment and attractions with bigger crowds and close contact among people - will be assessed for reopening, he added.

In the third phase, when Singapore will be in a state of stability, new controls and safeguards have to be put in place until a vaccine is found, said Mr Wong.

It is not a return to life before COVID-19, he stressed.

While activities such as going to a theatre, cinema or place of worship will likely be possible during this phase, limits on group size and safe distancing measures will remain, he said.

Similarly, he added, baseline precautions such as basic personal hygiene, safe distancing and the wearing of face masks will continue to be a must throughout the three phases.

Mr Gan urged Singaporeans not to let up in the fight against COVID-19.

"We hope everyone will cooperate with us to support our plan and work together with us, so that we can safely remove the circuit breaker, safely open our economy and society," he said.

"And at the same time, make a safe transition towards a safe nation."

Visits to parents, grandparents to be allowed within limits
From June 2, each home can receive only up to 2 visitors from same household once a day
By Goh Yan Han, The Straits Times, 20 May 2020

Singaporeans will be allowed to visit their parents or grandparents from June 2, but with some restrictions in place.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) said yesterday that each household can receive only up to two visitors once a day. These visitors must come from a single household.

As part of this policy, dropping off children at parents' and grandparents' homes for childcare will also be allowed. This comes on top of existing provisions for informal childcare arrangements for essential workers.

The same limit of up to two visitors from one household each day also applies, the ministry said.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said there will be some flexibility for households to visit their parents, in-laws and grandparents after the circuit breaker ends on June 1.

However, siblings will not be allowed to visit one another.

Mr Gan said the limit of allowing only one household to visit elderly family members once a day is meant to avoid having big family gatherings.

"I know this is very restrictive and there will be a lot of appeals and a lot of angst among the children, because everyone wants to see your parents and visit your grandparents all at the same time... We want to avoid having this gathering of people at the senior's house," he said.

Seniors should not leave their houses to visit family members, he added during a virtual press conference, encouraging them to continue staying home.

"You should not leave your home and visit your children and hop from household to household. This will increase exposure unnecessarily to a risk of infection," said Mr Gan, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force handling the coronavirus pandemic.

He added that there will be exceptions for seniors who do not have children, and appeals can be made for siblings or nieces and nephews to visit them.

"Seniors are a particularly vulnerable group and we must continue to take precautions to protect them," he said.

Asked how these rules would be enforced, the minister acknowledged that it would not be easy to do so. He urged people to instead focus on and abide by the spirit of these rules and regulations, which is to protect the seniors in their family.

Should there be complaints from neighbours about incidents of big gatherings, action will have to be taken, he added.

Separately, senior citizens will still not be able to take part in senior-centric activities such as group exercises and karaoke sessions for now, as such activities will continue to be suspended.

However, senior activity centres will gradually resume some activities, to cater to the psychological well-being of seniors with little or no social support otherwise.

Community-based centre services for people with disabilities will also gradually reopen with safe distancing measures in place.

Any necessary activities will be held in smaller groups while people with medical conditions are encouraged to stay home and receive home-based support, said MOH.

Staff will continue to take the necessary precautions, such as wearing masks, maintaining good personal hygiene and ensuring regular cleaning of activity equipment and shared spaces.

Commuters must wear masks on buses, trains
They can't talk on phones or to one another to avoid spreading droplets
By Tee Zhuo, The Straits Times, 20 May 2020

Commuters will have to wear masks and refrain from talking on the phone or to one another when taking buses and trains, to avoid spreading droplets in an enclosed space.

These were among the measures announced yesterday by the authorities as part of plans to keep commuters safe after Singapore exits the circuit breaker.

Speaking at a press conference, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said ridership on public transport will increase as restrictions are eased, with more people commuting to work and school.

"We fully expect that it will be difficult to maintain physical distancing in public transport, trains or buses, during the peak periods," said Mr Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry COVID-19 task force.

"Maybe not for the entire route, but for certain journeys on certain bus routes or MRT routes, it will be difficult to maintain physical distancing.

"So we will focus on other safe management measures for public transport," he said.

To minimise travel during peak periods, businesses will be required to stagger their working hours.

Public transport operators will "increase the capacity of trains and buses to the maximum" to meet the expected rise in demand, said Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan in a Facebook post.

He noted that trains and buses will be more crowded as public transport ridership increases.

Ridership on trains has fallen by 80 per cent since the coronavirus outbreak started in late January.

Before the pandemic, trains normally ran at intervals of two minutes or less during peak hours.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) reduced the frequency of trains earlier last month to reflect lower demand from heightened safe distancing measures.

It subsequently increased the frequency of trains from one every five minutes to every three, after reports of crowding on some MRT lines.

At the time, Mr Khaw said that he told LTA to "err on the side of generosity" and to "over-provide rather than under-provide", as the priority was safe distancing for essential workers who still took the train to work.

Yesterday, Mr Khaw said the risk of COVID-19 transmission among commuters is low, with the low community spread in Singapore.

The Health Ministry yesterday said the number of community cases has averaged three daily in the past week, down from six the week before.

One such case was reported yesterday.

To further reduce the risk, Mr Khaw said transport operators have stepped up their cleaning regime, and applied an anti-microbial chemical coating on frequently touched surfaces.

Similar coatings have already been applied on surfaces at Changi Airport and lift buttons at Housing Board blocks.

In his Facebook post, Mr Khaw also urged those who feel unwell to stay at home.

"Until there is a vaccine, and with so much still unknown about COVID-19, there is no foolproof way of avoiding infection.

"But we can minimise the risk to a manageable level," he said.

Singapore schools to open in phases from June 2 after COVID-19 circuit breaker, but not all will go back to classrooms daily
Apart from Pri 6, Sec 4 and 5 graduating cohorts, rest will alternate between home-based learning and classes in school
By Sandra Davie, Senior Education Correspondent, The Straits Times, 20 May 2020

Schools will reopen on June 2, but daily classes on school premises will be held only for the graduating cohorts of Primary 6, Secondary 4 and 5, who will wear masks or face shields while attending lessons.

All other students will alternate between home-based learning and classes in school on a weekly basis.

School-and community-based student care centres will also open from June 2.

For junior college and Millennia Institute students, half the student body has been given the go-ahead to be back in school at any one time from June 2, with their teachers ensuring that all students, especially the graduating cohorts, have more than adequate face-to-face time with them.

Physical education (PE) lessons will resume, but co-curricular activities will continue to be suspended.

During PE lessons, students and PE teachers will not be required to wear masks when engaged in strenuous physical activities.

Ministry of Education (MOE) centres will open for students sitting national examinations, including language papers.

MOE, which announced this yesterday, said that when there is a further easing of measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, possibly in a few weeks' time, all students will start attending school every day.

All schools will continue with the safety measures that have been further tightened since late January, such as students staying in class groupings, and using fixed exam-style seating and practising appropriate distancing.

Staggered recess times and dismissals, daily temperature taking and wipe-down routines will continue. Teachers, like their students, will also be subject to the new measure of wearing masks or face shields.

Polytechnic students will continue attending lectures and tutorials online, while Institute of Technical Education students will rotate weekly between online and on-campus lessons. They will return to campus primarily for practical and laboratory sessions.

Undergraduates from the Singapore Institute of Technology and Singapore University of Technology and Design will continue having lectures and tutorials online.

Students at the other four autonomous universities are currently on vacation.

Speaking at the COVID-19 multi-ministry task force briefing, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said that despite the strict safety measures in place, some parents will be worried.

But he said: "All over the world, countries are opening schools in phases carefully because COVID-19 will be with us for some time. We must be able to regain our lives, while taking all necessary precautions."

He noted that when the coronavirus took hold early in the year, many countries closed schools, although for some of them, the school year had recently started.

As a result, there is concern among educators over learning loss for some students.

"It may set them back for many years," Mr Ong said, adding that even when his ministry decided to close schools from April 8, it did not take the decision lightly.

Parents had mixed reactions, with some seeing the need for the weekly rotation of students doing home-based learning and lessons in school.

Accountant Susan Neo, 40, whose two primary school-going children will be doing home-based learning on different weeks, said the arrangement will be inconvenient for her.

She said: "I was looking forward to going back to work at the office; so was my boss. But now, I probably have to work from home for another month."

Students will have to return to school during their allocated times come June 2, says Ong Ye Kung
Going back to school not optional; safety measures will be in place
By Jean Iau, The Straits Times, 22 May 2020

Attending school will not be optional, and students will have to return to school according to their assigned schedules from June 2.

Following the announcement that students will progressively return to school when Singapore's circuit breaker period ends on June 1, parents have raised concerns about sending their children to school in the light of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Responding to some of these concerns, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said in a Facebook post yesterday that the ministry will do its utmost to keep schools safe through means such as health screenings for everyone entering the school, good hygiene practices and safe distancing.

"But unless there are specific concerns arising from medical conditions, we cannot make attending school voluntary," he said.

"We simply cannot keep our children at home for so long. The impact on their socio-emotional and mental well-being will be serious. Having brought community transmission to a low and controlled level, we should resume school, reclaim a sense of normalcy, while taking many precautions."

As some children may find it difficult to wear a mask all day, all pre-school and primary school pupils will be given face shields when they return to school.

"They can wear either a face mask or a face shield when in school or on campus. This is for their own protection and that of others," Mr Ong wrote.

He added: "Teachers will help young children get used to the masks or shields with time. If there are special circumstances, teachers will also exercise flexibility."

Following the announcement of the easing of circuit breaker measures from June 2 that will allow some businesses to reopen, schools will also be prepared to extend limited care to young pupils without childcare arrangements during their home-based learning weeks.

Non-graduating cohorts in primary and secondary schools are expected to return to school on alternate weeks, with home-based learning in the weeks between.

Mr Ong urged parents and companies to work out arrangements by continuing to telecommute, for example.

Those who are unable to make suitable childcare arrangements can approach their child's school for assistance.

Mr Ong wrote: "By working together, exercising personal responsibility, plus maintaining high levels of personal hygiene and environmental cleanliness, our children can return to school in a safe manner."

Pre-schools in Singapore to open from June 2 in stages, with K1 and K2 kids returning first
Centres must adhere to safety measures such as wearing of masks when they reopen
By Amelia Teng, Education Correspondent, The Straits Times, 20 May 2020

From June 2, pre-schools will resume general services for children in stages, Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said yesterday.

Kindergarten 1 and Kindergarten 2 children - five-and six-year-olds - will be the first to return to pre-school from June 2, while Nursery 1 and Nursery 2 children may go back a week later, from June 8.

From June 10, the youngest group of children in infant care and playgroups may return.

In line with circuit breaker measures, pre-schools have been closed since April 8 to most children except for a small group who need care support.

When the centres reopen, they must adhere to safe management measures, such as compulsory wearing of masks or face shields for all staff and children aged two years and older, having smaller groups of children during activities, as well as staggering drop-off and pick-up timings.

Speaking at a news conference of the multi-ministry task force tackling COVID-19 in Singapore, Mr Lee said that as the circuit breaker comes to an end, workplaces will reopen and parents will need childcare support.

Student care centres for older students will reopen fully on June 2, with precautions in place, he added.

Early intervention centres - for children with special needs - will also reopen in phases, starting with children with higher needs or those who attend only such centres.

The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) said yesterday that all other children, who attend both pre-school and programmes at early intervention centres, will continue to be supported with remote learning to reduce any risk of transmission across centres.

"We will work with providers to safely and gradually resume intervention services for these children, with priority for K2 children," it said.

Supplementary programmes, such as enrichment and early intervention services by providers which move across various centres, remain suspended, it added.

Mr Lee said pre-schools are reopening in phases to give children, parents and staff time to adapt to stepped-up measures, and ease the transition for young children.

"While we cannot eliminate the risk of transmission, we can minimise the risks. Therefore, rules and practices in pre-school and early intervention centres will have to change," he said.

For instance, staff and children aged two and older will wear a mask or face shield in school, a practice already in place among those now at the centres.

Temasek Foundation is providing face shields to all 180,000 children in pre-schools and early intervention centres, as well as 30,000 staff.

Mr Lee said that the ECDA will devote the first two weeks of reopening to reinforcing public health awareness and ensuring staff, children and parents develop "COVID-safe" habits. This will take priority over the resumption of normal classes.

He also said pre-schools and early intervention centres will be guided by a set of "COVID-safe ABCs" in their reopening. The guidelines are aimed at ensuring safe access to the centres, and restricting the entry of visitors.

The pre-school community will, among other things, adopt safe hygiene measures, including frequent hand washing and cleaning of premises and equipment, as well as having smaller group activities in a class.

They will also stagger the use of common areas and facilities as well as suspend cross-deployment of staff.

Mr Lee said: "We ask our pre-school community of staff and children and parents not to see this merely as rules and regulations, but measures that are essential to safeguard the health and well-being of all in the centres."

Places of worship will reopen for limited private prayer
By Goh Yan Han, The Straits Times, 20 May 2020

Places of worship here will reopen for private worship from June 2, with a limit of five members of the same household praying at a time.

No congregational services will be allowed, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong at a virtual press conference yesterday.

"The religious leaders across all faiths are being briefed on these requirements. They will help to manage the situation in the different settings and ensure that safe distancing, safe management practices are put in place," he said.

Bigger groups could be allowed to gather in places of worship when Singapore moves to the subsequent phases of reopening the country, added Mr Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many places of worship began suspending services in February and March due to the coronavirus outbreak, though they still allowed private worship.

These places later had to close fully after the circuit breaker measures kicked in on April 7.

Some of the earlier coronavirus clusters included churches such as The Life Church and Missions Singapore as well as Grace Assembly of God, which was at one point Singapore's largest cluster with 23 cases linked to it.

Marriage solemnisations will also be allowed to take place in-person again, with up to 10 people present, said the Ministry of Health.

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee had previously said 2,723 couples were scheduled to have their marriages solemnised between April 7 and June 1, but had to postpone their plans due to the circuit breaker.

Parliament passed a law on May 5 allowing couples to say their wedding vows remotely via live video links, in the virtual presence of their witnesses, and, in the case of Muslim marriages, also the wali, or the bride's lawful guardian.

The new law came into force last Friday.

Families can continue to gather for wakes and funerals, limited to 10 people at one time.

Other non-essential activities and social gatherings will remain prohibited, so as not to bring together more people living in different households, said the Health Ministry.

Sports and recreation facilities remain closed, it added.

In the next phase of reopening the country and allowing more activities to resume, social activities in small groups may be permitted, and sports, recreation and outdoor facilities will be able to reopen.

Basic training to resume for 8,000 national servicemen from 26 May 2020
Move essential for operational needs; strict health and safety measures will be in place
By Lim Min Zhang, The Straits Times, 20 May 2020

Basic training for about 8,000 servicemen will resume from May 26, seven weeks after it was suspended in line with nationwide circuit breaker measures to stem the spread of COVID-19.

The Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said in separate statements yesterday that the resumption of training for these two batches was necessary for front-line or operational units to be staffed and for commanders to be trained.

About 6,300 Singapore Armed Forces recruits will be informed of their reporting dates, which range from May 26 to the middle of June, said MINDEF.

For about 1,700 police and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) full-time national servicemen (NSF) trainees, their reporting dates will be between May 26 and June 8, said MHA.

The ministries said the staggered dates will reduce congestion and allow safe distancing measures to be implemented.

They added that strict health and safety measures will be in place, like having all trainees and instructors undergo health screening when they return for training.

Those with symptoms of respiratory infection will be immediately separated from the rest and tested for COVID-19.

Existing measures, such as twice-daily temperature taking and staggered meal times, will remain in place.

Training will also be adjusted to be done in smaller groups, the ministries said.

Yesterday, the multi-ministry task force in charge of handling the virus outbreak announced plans for business, school and other community activities to resume in a gradual manner from June 2, as Singapore exits its circuit breaker period.

Both MINDEF and MHA had announced on April 6 that basic training would be suspended from April 7 to May 4. This was extended to June 1 in line with the Government's extension of the circuit breaker.

MINDEF yesterday said the resumption of basic military training was necessary to generate operational units as well as select commanders for training at the Officer Cadet and Specialist Cadet schools.

These schools have continued training throughout the circuit breaker period since April 7 with precautionary measures in place.

MHA said basic training has to resume to ensure the continued development of commanders and NSFs for deployment to front-line units in the Singapore Police Force (SPF) and SCDF.

Like with the SAF, Home Team training that is considered essential - such as officer cadet training for SPF and SCDF trainees - has continued.

Affected servicemen include those who were "administratively enlisted" in April and May so far.

This means they are considered to have been enlisted, but do not have to report to camp until they receive their next reporting date when the suspension ends.

During the suspension, trainees have to stay at home and go out only to buy food or for other essential activities, similar to restrictions on other people during this period.

Basic Military Training Centre recruits have to do home-based learning with provided online training content.

On April 1, the SAF highlighted measures it introduced to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection.

These included having recruits move from place to place in a section - comprising a maximum of 16 people - instead of in a platoon, which has up to 64 recruits.

Singapore's COVID-19 testing rate of 49,000 tests per million people among highest in the world - over 281,000 done so far
By Timothy Goh, The Straits Times, 20 May 2020

Over 281,000 tests for COVID-19 have been carried out on 191,000 individuals here so far, the Health Ministry's director of medical services, Associate Professor Kenneth Mak, said yesterday.

This comes to around 49,000 tests per million people in the country, he added.

Speaking at a virtual press conference, Prof Mak said: "We continue to expand our test capacity and we remain committed towards performing the tests needed for the various strategies that we put in place, to return people to work (and) back into the community safely, to ensure that the risk of spread remains under control."

He added that Singapore is looking at new methodologies to maximise the benefits it gets from such tests.

These include pooled testing methodologies, particularly in settings where the risk of spread remains low.

Such a strategy would work best when it comes to surveillance for selected parts of the population that the authorities are concerned about, said Prof Mak, without elaborating further.

The multi-ministry task force that was formed to tackle the spread of the coronavirus in Singapore had earlier this month announced its intention to ramp up the number of tests done here to 40,000 each day.

Yesterday, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the task force, pointed out that the Republic has already drastically increased its volume of daily tests.

"Not too long ago, we were testing at (a rate of) 2,000 tests a day. Today we're doing 8,000 a day... Our plans to ramp up that capacity, test kits, personnel, laboratories, remain on track," he said.

Mr Wong added that the ability to ramp up so quickly was due to the fact that such plans had started months ago.

He said: "We're today already testing at a rate that's among the highest in the world, and we want to do even more beyond this. As we reopen the economy, as we resume activities, testing capability and testing capacity will be a critical enabler for us to do all of these things safely."

DPM Heng Swee Keat to unveil fourth package of financial support next Tuesday, 26 May 2020
By Grace Ho, Senior Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 20 May 2020

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat will announce a new round of COVID-19 support measures for businesses and individuals next Tuesday in Parliament.

The package, the fourth since February, will help them adapt and build resilience amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Heng will deliver the ministerial statement at 3.30pm and it will be live on radio and television.

When it is over, the statement will be published on the Singapore Budget website.

In a Facebook post yesterday, Mr Heng said learning from the experience of other countries, the resumption of economic and social activities here must be done "cautiously and gradually".

"If we reopen too quickly, we risk new waves of infection, which could be even more disruptive to lives and livelihoods," he added.

For workers and businesses that are unable to resume activities immediately after the eight-week circuit breaker ends on June 1, Mr Heng said the Government will help them tide over the period.

How it will help them will be spelt out in his ministerial statement.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said at a press conference by the multi-ministry task force yesterday that support measures during the circuit breaker period will continue to be given to businesses that remain closed during the first phase of reopening.

"Beyond that, we will look at other items in the Budget. This will be the fourth Budget in a year - it is really unprecedented, and we are doing all we can to support businesses and workers," he said.

The Government earlier announced a total of $63.7 billion in aid under three COVID-19 support packages. Over $16 billion in COVID-19 government aid has been given to Singaporeans and businesses so far.

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