Tuesday, 16 June 2020

COVID-19: Singapore to start Phase 2 reopening on 19 June 2020; F&B dine-in, social gatherings of up to 5 people allowed

Phase Two starts after 18 June 2359hrs: Shops can reopen, dining in allowed
Ministers say safe distancing, personal responsibility critical as most activities are allowed to resume
By Yuen Sin, The Straits Times, 16 Jun 2020

Singapore will embark on phase two of reopening its economy on Friday, having managed to keep infections in check in the two weeks since the end of the circuit breaker period.

A range of restrictions will be eased to allow more business and social activities to resume. People can also get together socially in groups of up to five, and households can receive up to five visitors at any one time.

But individuals will still have to keep a safe distance of at least 1m from others, where feasible.

"In phase one, the default setting was that many things remained closed and we only selectively allowed certain (sectors) to resume activities in order to manage the risk... (For) phase two, the default will be that most activities will resume and open," National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force tackling COVID-19, said at a virtual media conference.

His co-chair, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, said the decision to resume activities was taken as the number of community cases in Singapore was stable and cases in migrant worker dormitories remained under control.

Singapore reported 214 new cases yesterday, 15 June, the lowest daily count in about two months, none of whom are Singaporeans or permanent residents.

But a "delicate balance" must be struck in order to keep the COVID-19 situation under control, cautioned Mr Gan. Further reopening must be done safely and responsibly, with capacity limits in place.

From Friday, dining in, personal wellness services such as massages and spas, as well as home-based services like private tuition can resume, except for singing or voice training classes.

Retail shops, parks, beaches, and sports and other public facilities, including stadiums, swimming pools, playgrounds and fitness studios, can also reopen, as can similar facilities in condominiums.

All healthcare services, including community eldercare services, will resume, and visits to nursing homes will be allowed again.

But masks will remain a must when people leave their homes.

Singapore will also ease some travel restrictions.

Singapore residents and long-term pass holders entering Singapore from selected countries, including Australia, mainland China and South Korea, may serve their stay-home notices at home, instead of at dedicated facilities, from Thursday. But they will be subject to a compulsory COVID-19 test towards the end of their stay-home notice, for which they must pay.

Higher-risk activities, including religious services and congregations, conferences and concerts, will not yet be allowed, as overseas and local examples have shown that such settings can spawn large clusters of infections, said Mr Wong.

"These are your super spreader events, if you will," he said.

Karaoke outlets, bars, cinemas as well as libraries, museums and other large cultural and entertainment venues will also not be allowed to reopen yet.

The authorities will continue to engage these establishments on safety measures needed, said Mr Wong. "We will be able to allow these to resume (activity) progressively over time, but not at the start of phase two," he added.

Precautions still have to be taken.

Seniors, a vulnerable group, should continue to stay home as much as they can.

Venues with high human traffic such as malls and large retail outlets will be subject to capacity limits, and operators must prevent crowds or long queues from building up, said the Ministry of Health.

There will still be "very tight enforcement" on the ground, said Mr Wong, with officers fanning out to new settings like restaurants.

Employees should not mix socially, and working from home should remain the default option.

From June 29, schools will also reopen fully, with students returning to school daily.

But Singaporeans must remain vigilant even as the country removes more restrictions, said Mr Gan. Community cases may rise as activities resume and testing efforts are stepped up.

"To keep the number of new cases under control and prevent large clusters, it is critical that we continue to remain vigilant... This way, our efforts over the last two months will not be wasted and we can safely move towards phase three."

Safe distancing measures will still be enforced
Cooperating with rules will help Singapore reach phase three sooner, says Lawrence Wong
By Toh Wen Li, The Straits Times, 16 Jun 2020

When Singapore's economy enters its second phase of reopening on Friday, 19 June, the authorities will continue to ensure that safe distancing measures are observed, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said yesterday.

Safe distancing ambassadors and enforcement officers will still be deployed, and will make their rounds in places such as public sports facilities and food and beverage outlets' dine-in areas, which can reopen at the end of the week.

Tables for restaurant diners, for example, must be at least a metre apart, and social gatherings - while permitted - should have no more than five people.

"I hate to sound like a broken record," Mr Wong said at a virtual media conference, urging people to comply for the sake of themselves and their loved ones.

"All of us need to really look at the spirit of the requirements and do our part to allow the reopening to take place in a safe and sustainable manner," he added.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, who was also at the media conference, said the wide scope of phase two has made it "very difficult and challenging" to try to prescribe rules and regulations for every possible scenario and setting.

He noted that some people would try to find ways to get round the rules, and cited the Chinese saying shang you zheng ce, xia you dui ce (the higher-ups have their policies, but those below have ways of getting around them).

This would backfire, he warned: "You can fool the rules, but you cannot fool the virus. If you violate the rules, the virus will get to you."

Mr Gan added that cooperating with the rules would help the country to reach phase three sooner.

Mall operators will also be asked to regulate the flow of people on their premises, Mr Wong said.

Capacity limits would be based on the size of the mall's gross floor area, and steps should also be taken to ensure the queues outside the malls are properly managed - avoiding having crowds of people in close contact with one another.

"If the mall operator is unable to manage crowds, the queues or put in place proper safe management practices, then we will ask the mall to close. It is better that they close and then reopen only when they are ready to deal with the crowds," he said.

He also urged firms to take safe management practices seriously - for instance, by having staff work from home wherever possible, and having split-team arrangements.

This would be in the company's best interests, he added, as an infection at the workplace could result in many staff members being quarantined - and "the entire workplace may have to be shut down".

"But if workplaces are responsible, and do what is required of them, but also do what is in their own self-interest... then even if there were to be an infection in the workplace setting, the business might not need to close and many of the staff may not be impacted.

"Because they will have been separated, many will be working from home, so there will be business continuity," added Mr Wong.

Groups such as the Restaurant Association of Singapore and Singapore Tenants United for Fairness (SGTUFF) welcomed the news that dine-in business and various other operations can resume.

An SGTUFF spokesman said front-line businesses remain "cautiously optimistic" about the future.

"Most of us expect business to be 20 per cent to 30 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. The costs of running our businesses will therefore exceed the revenues we will get in the months ahead. The rental rebates mandated by the Government would have been used to cover for our rental costs from March to June," the spokesman said.

"We continue to urge landlords to work with us as symbiotic partners to figure out win-win solutions to the high rental costs for the months ahead... Now is the time for unity and working as one cohesive community to start figuring out how to revive what was an already struggling bricks-and-mortar sector. There is no more time to waste."

Further easing of curbs not signal to let guard down: Lawrence Wong
By Audrey Tan, Science and Environment Correspondent, The Straits Times, 16 Jun 2020

Most activities in Singapore can resume on Friday, but the expansion should not be a signal for people to let their guard down, the multi-ministry task force tackling COVID-19 warned yesterday.

Sounding a cautionary note at yesterday's virtual press conference, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said: "Do not treat phase two as a signal that we can all relax, we can all let our guard down and we can now go out and do all our favourite activities."

Having such a mindset could cause a surge in the number of COVID-19 infections during this phase, and raise the possibility of the country having to reintroduce restrictions, he added.

"I don't think any one of us would like to see (that)," he said.

Under phase two of the reopening, more business and social activities can resume, but individuals must keep a safe distance of at least 1m from others. Where this is not feasible, groups of no more than five persons should be at least 1m apart, with no mixing between groups.

"By all means go out, but limit the number of contacts that we have to a small group and take all the necessary measures," said Mr Wong.

Associate Professor Kenneth Mak, the Health Ministry's director of medical services, said the circuit breaker and the first phase of reopening, during which schools reopened and more workers returned to work, allowed Singapore to improve and fine-tune its contact tracing abilities and the speed of its response.

"(This ensures) that if cases arise or clusters emerge, we would be ready to step in decisively, quickly do contact tracing and quickly throw a ring around to isolate these cases and close contacts to prevent further spread," he said, noting that Singapore had also improved its healthcare capacity to prepare for the possibility of new community clusters emerging as the economy reopens.

"It is therefore important for me to emphasise the need for all of us to continue to be vigilant and to play our part," he said.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said it was a delicate balance to strike between allowing economic and community activities to resume, and keeping infection rates under control.

"To succeed, we need the collective effort of every Singaporean to be socially responsible and adhere strictly to safe distancing measures. Minimising prolonged close contact with others, mask wearing and good hygiene practices remain key strategies in the next phase."

Working from home will continue to be default in phase 2 to reduce COVID-19 transmission: Lawrence Wong
Call for bosses to let staff keep working from home
This may protect firms and workers, ensuring business continuity if infection occurs
By Audrey Tan, Science and Environment Correspondent, The Straits Times, 16 Jun 2020

Employers are urged to let their workers continue to work from home when Singapore reopens the economy from Friday.

The arrangement could protect both workers and businesses, as it ensures continuity even if a worker comes down with COVID-19, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said yesterday, when he announced details of phase two of the country's reopening.

Singapore is now in its third week of phase one, after the circuit breaker ended on June 1. But most activities are still not allowed in this period.

In phase two, most economic and social activities can start again, including dining in at food and beverage outlets.

Mr Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force tackling COVID-19, said at a virtual press conference that it is in the interest of businesses to let their employees continue to work from home.

This will help them avoid having to quarantine many in their workforce should an employee be infected by the coronavirus. "The entire workplace may have to be shut down," he added.

But when companies adopt split-team arrangements, with one group working from home, they may not have to close since not everyone would have been exposed to the infected person.

"It's in the interest of all businesses (to allow telecommuting)," Mr Wong said.

"They should take the safe management practices very seriously and continue to have employees work from home to the maximum extent."

This, in turn, will help reduce the number of commuters travelling to work by public transport, especially during peak periods, he added.

Mr Wong said the Government recognises that maintaining a safe distance from another person on public transport is not easy.

Hence, other measures have been implemented to continue safeguarding commuters.

These include the mandatory wearing of masks, and urging commuters not to talk to one another or on the phone during the journey.

Public transport operators have also been asked to step up their cleaning regimes, he added.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong added that precautionary measures should be viewed as a package instead of being evaluated individually.

"We have to bear in mind that even as we open up in phase two, we need to further strengthen individual responsibility and discipline, so that each of us can help keep the number of cases low (and that) despite the increase in interactions between individuals, the transmissions can still be managed because we are disciplined," the minister said at the press conference.

For example, it may not be possible to wear a mask in a restaurant or hawker centre during meals with friends.

"But it doesn't mean that we, therefore, don't have to wear masks everywhere else.

"All the more we need to strengthen the preventive measures elsewhere so that, overall, we keep the number of cases low," Mr Gan added.

Months before Phase 3 can begin: Lawrence Wong
By Toh Wen Li, The Straits Times, 16 Jun 2020

It could be months before Singapore reaches the third and final stage of its phased reopening, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong yesterday.

He noted that some restrictions - like the limit of five people for social gatherings - could be further eased during phase two. However, he also cautioned that "along the way, we might have to slow down or even tighten some restrictions" if necessary.

Phase two of the country's reopening begins on Friday, nearly three weeks after the two-month circuit breaker ended on June 1.

In this phase, dining in will be allowed at restaurants, and sports facilities such as swimming complexes will open their doors again. Social gatherings of up to five people will be allowed, but people should still stay at least 1m apart from one another where possible.

Mr Wong said some of these rules could be relaxed later on in phase two - for example, having larger social gatherings, and re-opening venues such as libraries, museums and attractions.

"This could happen in a few weeks' time - they could start to reopen... but with strict limits in terms of the capacity of the number of people who can enter that venue," he said.

"Over time, we will increase the capacity limits as we continue to monitor and see the situation remaining stable."

"So we expect this process of review, monitoring, easing - hopefully it's easing because you never know along the way we might have to slow down or even tighten some restrictions - but we expect this process to continue for months before we reach phase three."

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force handling the pandemic with Mr Wong, made similar points.

"Maybe in two weeks, (or) in one month's time, if the number of cases remains stable, we may increase (the maximum size of a social gathering) to 10 persons, or a different number depending on the situation," he said.

On restrictions that remain on activities such as large gatherings and religious congregations, Mr Gan said the authorities are in discussions with these groups.

"When they are ready, when they are able to put in place safe-distancing measures, we will progressively allow them to start their operations," he added.

"We may allow (a) smaller scale, to start with, and over time we increase the scale for them to allow more people to join the events.

"This will progress as we go along, and eventually when we reach phase three, basically phase three is a steady state.

"By that time, we are probably going to hold that position in phase three for quite a long time until a vaccine is available."

All travellers entering Singapore from 17 June 2020, 2359 hours, must take compulsory COVID-19 test and pay for it
Non-Singaporeans, non-PRs must also foot bill if serving stay-home notice at dedicated facility
By Olivia Ho, Arts Correspondent, The Straits Times, 16 Jun 2020

All travellers entering Singapore from Thursday, 18 June, will have to take a COVID-19 test, and pay for it.

Those who are not Singaporeans or permanent residents will also have to foot the bill if they are required to serve their 14-day stay-home notice (SHN) at a dedicated facility like a hotel.

All travellers entering Singapore from 11.59pm on Wednesday, 17 June, will be subject to a compulsory COVID-19 test a few days before the end of their SHN, which they must pay for, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong yesterday during a virtual press conference.

A COVID-19 test can cost up to $200, while a 14-day stay at a dedicated SHN facility will cost $2,000.

Travellers may serve their 14-day SHN at home, instead of a dedicated facility, if they are coming from Australia, Brunei, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, mainland China, New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan or Vietnam, and have been in that country or territory for the last consecutive 14 days before entering Singapore.

Singapore citizens and permanent residents in this group may serve their SHN at their place of residence, while long-term pass holders may serve theirs at a place of residence that they or their family members own or are sole tenants of, or accommodations like hotels.

All other travellers entering Singapore will continue to serve their SHN at dedicated facilities.

"Up to now, the cost of tests and SHN facilities have been borne by the Government," said Mr Wong. "But looking ahead, as we reopen for more travel, we will want to move to a more sustainable position."

All travellers entering Singapore from 11.59pm on Wednesday will have to take a COVID-19 test before the end of their SHN at a designated community testing facility.

They will receive information on the scheduled appointment slot and venue via an SMS notification, said the Ministry of Health in a statement yesterday.

They will have to travel from their place of residence to the testing facility and return immediately after the test, using their own private vehicle or designated transport. They should avoid public transport.

More details will be made available soon.

A test is not mandatory for outbound travellers, but should their destination country require them to take a test, they will have to bear the costs themselves.

The Government will also look at how it can facilitate business travel with the necessary safeguards, in particular for Singapore-based professionals who need to travel frequently as part of their work.

For now, short-term visitors are still not allowed, except those coming in under the green or fast-lane arrangements, or with special prior approval.

Earlier this month, Singapore agreed to resume essential business and official travel with China in a fast-lane agreement which will enable travellers from both sides to fly into each other's countries without serving quarantine periods of up to 14 days.

Instead, travellers must take a COVID-19 swab test 48 hours before departure and after they land.

They must also submit detailed itineraries, and the business organisations or government entities sponsoring them must file applications on their behalf.

Approved travellers coming into Singapore must download the TraceTogether app and cannot travel by public transport.

Similar rules will apply to Singapore travellers going to China.

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said in a Facebook post yesterday that his ministry is prepared to consider appeals on a case-by-case basis for swab test arrangements in place of SHN for returning fast-lane users.

Appeals can be directed to COVID_STPOappeals@mti.gov.sg

Asked about the resumption of travel between Singapore and Malaysia, Mr Wong said green-lane arrangements for air travel are under discussion.

"With regards to the land crossing, that's more complicated because of the large volume of people that commuted every day between Singapore and Malaysia in the past," he added.

If travel across the Causeway or other land crossings were to resume, a combination of precautions including testing, as well as quarantine arrangements, would be required, he noted.

"We want... movement to resume but we also want this to be done in a safe and sustainable manner. So the exact protocols, the exact safeguards, the numbers of travellers that we can expect, all of these are details that are being discussed amongst the officials at this time."

Singaporeans and residents are still advised to defer all travel abroad.

Rise in cases with low viral load due to testing strategy
By Timothy Goh, The Straits Times, 16 Jun 2020

The increasing number of detected COVID-19 cases with low viral load is not due to the coronavirus mutating but, rather, a result of Singapore's unique testing strategy, said the Ministry of Health's (MOH) director of medical services Kenneth Mak yesterday.

Last Wednesday, the ministry announced that six students and staff who had tested positive for the disease earlier in the month had displayed mild symptoms and had low viral loads.

Speaking at a virtual press conference yesterday, Associate Professor Mak pointed out that Singapore has been expanding its testing strategies, leading to a larger pool of asymptomatic people being tested.

"As we test more, it is inevitable that we will find more people who have had infections in the past and who remain asymptomatic. And it is not surprising that their onset of illness could have been some time ago. That partially accounts for why their viral loads are low at the time when they actually are diagnosed," he said.

"It doesn't necessarily reflect that the virus has changed in any way."

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, who was also at the press conference, said that the Republic's "aggressive" method of testing means that its data cannot be compared with that of other countries, which may have a different basis for testing people.

He added that because cases with low viral load are usually asymptomatic, they tend to feel that there is nothing wrong with them and do not seek medical attention.

As a result, they would not have been detected under "normal circumstances".

Prof Mak also clarified that mutations are a common occurrence in all viruses, not just the one which causes COVID-19.

"We see mutations in the virus causing COVID-19 infection, but that doesn't necessarily imply that mutation variants or strains are more infectious or cause more harm," he said.

He added that the authorities are not aware of any evidence suggesting that the recent mutations of the coronavirus have made it deadlier.

Nevertheless, they will continue to review all available evidence and research, and monitor the situation carefully.

"We look towards our scientific experts to provide us with guidance and advice as to what we should do if we're dealing with virus strains that in fact lead to a change in behaviour of the virus. But so far there's no evidence to suggest (this)," said Prof Mak.

Ban on live music, TV screenings at eateries among restrictions
By Timothy Goh, The Straits Times, 16 Jun 2020

When Singapore enters phase two of the post-circuit breaker measures on Friday, most outlets will reopen - but there will still be restrictions in place, such as a ban on TV screenings or live music at eateries. Some places, such as museums and libraries, will also remain shut for now.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, co-chair of the multi-ministry task force tackling the spread of the coronavirus, said such exceptions are needed.

This is because the nature of certain activities or locations increases the risk of people being infected.

For instance, although food and beverage outlets will be able to allow dining in once more, live music as well as television and video screenings will be banned at such places.

This is because the noise caused by such activities may cause people to speak more loudly, resulting in droplets - which may carry the coronavirus - being spread further. Patrons may also end up lingering longer than necessary at the outlets, said Mr Wong.

And while tuition and private enrichment classes can resume, singing and voice-training classes will remain shut as they are considered a higher-risk activity.

Activities that involve large numbers of people who are likely to come into close contact often, in enclosed spaces or for prolonged periods, will also have to wait.

"Our experience in Singapore and also overseas has shown that such settings are of higher risk and they could result in large clusters forming. So these are your super spreader events," said Mr Wong.

These include religious congregations, libraries, museums and large-scale events and venues such as conferences, exhibitions, concerts and trade fairs. Entertainment venues like bars, nightclubs, karaoke outlets, cinemas, theatres as well as indoor and outdoor attractions will also have to remain shut.

"The government agencies are continuing to engage the relevant businesses and organisations on the safe management measures that would be needed for these specific activities and settings, and subject to these safe management precautions and requirements being put in place at a later date, we will be able to allow these to resume progressively over time," said Mr Wong.

He added that some of these locations may be able to open in a few weeks' time, but with strict limits on the number of visitors.

Restrictions have also been eased slightly for certain other higher-risk activities and locations.

Wedding solemnisations at home, at the Registry of Marriages or at the Registry of Muslim Marriages may take place with up to 10 people excluding the solemniser.

This limit is raised to 20 people at other venues, subject to other safe management principles. Up to 20 people can also be present at one time at wakes and funerals.

Some of these restrictions may be eased further during phase two if the situation improves.

Sports community and enthusiasts cheer news of reopening of facilities
By Nicole Chia and Kimberly Kwek, The Straits Times, 16 Jun 2020

For the past two months, Ms Catherine Kwek has been on long walks every weekend to fill the void left by the closure of golf courses.

The 45-year-old, who works in logistics, will soon be able to return to her passion, after sports facilities were yesterday given the green light to reopen on Friday.

These include stadiums, swimming complexes, sports halls, hard courts, gyms, fitness studios and bowling centres. This guidance also applies to similar facilities in private settings such as condominiums and golf and country clubs.

Ms Kwek, who used to play golf thrice a week, told The Straits Times: "Over the weekends, it was definitely a must to golf, so not playing golf during the weekend over the last two months felt like something was missing, and I was getting withdrawal symptoms.

"I am excited and looking forward to playing golf again."

Sports facilities here have been closed since April 7, when the circuit breaker measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus kicked in. These facilities remained shut during the Republic's first phase of reopening, which started on June 2.

The reopening of facilities is subject to individuals maintaining safe distancing of at least 1m at all times.

Where this is not feasible or practical, such as in group training for team sports such as football, this 1m requirement can instead be enforced between groups, with each group made up of not more than five persons and with no mixing between groups.

Members of the sports community were pleased to hear the news, with some stressing that individuals must still act responsibly despite the easing of restrictions.

Mr Rajesh Mulani, co-owner of The Cage, an indoor football facility, told The Straits Times: "For a contact sport like football, it is going to be challenging to get a game going, so it will likely be that academies can start with some technical work."

He said he and his partner plan to offer football fitness training for adults "just to give football addicts a little bit of relief before we get to the stage where contact is allowed".

"The key is to do it sensibly - to be able to manage crowds, have dedicated entrances and exits, temperature screening and cleaning between groups," he stressed.

Mr Clement Teo, coach of Singapore Premier League club Hougang United, said the club would probably divide its players into groups of five when they resume training.

"We are breaking them into defenders, midfielders and strikers, and the strikers will be with the goalkeepers," he added. "It is very important for us to be socially responsible - it has been a long time, but we can't let our hair down just like this, we still need to be careful."

Some, like Singapore Hockey Federation (SHF) president Mathavan Devadas, are waiting for further guidance from Sport Singapore (SportSG). SportSG, which runs most public sports facilities and governs sports and exercise policy in the Republic, is expected to issue an advisory on its guidelines for the safe return to sporting action soon.

The SHF is preparing a document on how to return to hockey safely, which will include hygiene measures and drills that can be done when training resumes.

"We still need guidance from (SportSG) before we finalise the document and send it to affiliates, as the venues belong to SportSG," said Mr Mathavan.

Mr Sean Tan, chairman of the board and director of True Group, which owns and operates the 10 True Fitness and TFX gyms in Singapore, is "raring to go".

Mr Tan said: "We are all ready, it is a matter of what the specific details for the controls for gyms and fitness studios are. We have different contingency plans in place. The devil is in the details. It is good that we are opening up."

Ms Carol Cabal, co-founder of boutique gym Tribody Fitness, welcomed the announcement, but was also apprehensive at the same time.

She said: "We understand that some of our clients are not comfortable with returning, while others are excited. They have to be comfortable again to do the usual thing they did so we will be patient, and we are here to cater to their needs."


Limit of five for groups makes political walkabouts possible
By Toh Wen Li, The Straits Times, 16 Jun 2020

Social gatherings of up to five people will be allowed during phase two of the economy's reopening, indicating that political parties will be able to conduct walkabouts in small groups in the run-up to the upcoming general election.

The Ministry of Health yesterday announced that when phase two begins on Friday, a wider range of activities like dining in at restaurants can resume. Households can also receive up to five visitors at any one time.

However, people still have to stay at least 1m apart, and where this is not possible, small groups should stay at least 1m from one another.

Asked about guidelines for walkabouts should the general election be held in phase two, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said: "In terms of activities, we have highlighted if you are out and about, then the rule of five would apply. So, you can go out with your friends to exercise, to go on a walk - up to five people, but not more than that, and all must wear masks."

The Elections Department (ELD) has not yet released campaigning guidelines, saying such rules are not ready as these have to take into account the existing rules on safe distancing and management closer to the actual date of the polls.

During the virtual media conference yesterday, the multi-ministry task force on COVID-19 was also asked about phase two of reopening and the election time-frame, as well as how it could impact campaigning.

Responding, Mr Wong said that guidelines related to elections are "put together separately by the Elections Department".

"So, this can happen in phase two, it may happen in phase three, no one will know the exact timing at this stage, but should the election be called, the Elections Department will certainly explain what the precautions, safeguards and campaign guidelines entail. So, that is not for this task force to answer," added the minister, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force handling the pandemic.

The Health Ministry's director of medical services Kenneth Mak noted that the ELD consults his ministry on matters concerning public health. "Whenever an election is called, the prevailing public health requirements will have to be adhered to at that point in time," he said.

The ELD recently unveiled a set of safety measures for voters ahead of the general election. The number of polling stations will be increased from 880 to 1,100, for example, to reduce the number of voters going to each station from 3,000 to 2,400.

Voters will also be given recommended time slots, and can check the queue situation at their polling station online before turning up.






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