Friday, 11 June 2021

Singapore to ease COVID-19 curbs in two phases from 14 June 2021

Gradual Re-opening to Phase 3 (Heightened Alert)
Group sizes upped to 5 from June 14, dining in to resume from June 21
By Rei Kurohi, The Straits Times, 11 Jun 2021

Tighter measures currently in place to reduce the spread of Covid-19 will be eased progressively from next Monday (June 14).

In a statement on Thursday, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said Singapore will gradually reopen and move to phase three (heightened alert) in two steps.

Here are the key announcements.

1. Cap on social gatherings to be raised from two people to five from June 14

The current two-person limit on group social gatherings will be raised to five from next Monday.

The same two-person cap on the number of unique daily visitors to a household will also be raised to five.

MOH said such gatherings should still be limited to small groups of regular contacts, to reduce the likelihood of transmission. Groups of up to five per room will be allowed for hotel stays, up from two currently.

It advised the public to limit the number of social gatherings to no more than two a day.

2. Event size and capacity limits to be raised from June 14

Attractions, cruises, museums and public libraries will be allowed to operate at 50 per cent of their normal capacity from June 14, up from the current 25 per cent.

Event sizes will also be increased, and live performances and spectator sports events will be allowed to resume.

Events such as movie screenings at cinemas, events in the Mice (meetings, incentives, conferencing, exhibitions) industry, worship services and marriage solemnisation outside the home will be able to resume with up to 250 attendees, if pre-event testing (PET) is conducted.

For marriages, the cap includes the wedding couple but not solemnisers or vendors.

Solemnisations held at home will be allowed for groups of up to five visitors, excluding members of the hosting household, or up to 10 attendees in total, whichever is higher.

PET will not be required for events with 50 or fewer attendees.

From Monday, personal care services which require masks to be removed, such as facials, will be allowed to resume.

But unmasking and singing or playing wind instruments, as well as wedding receptions with dining in, can resume only from June 21.

3. Dining in only from June 21

These are considered high-risk settings, MOH said.

It reminded F&B establishments to strictly observe 1m safe distancing between groups of diners.

Groups must also be limited to five people, and patrons must wear their masks at all times except while eating and drinking.

Wedding receptions will be allowed for up to 100 attendees - a number which includes the couple but not the solemnisers or vendors - with PET in place for all attendees.

PET will be required for only the wedding party of up to 20 attendees if the reception has 50 or fewer total attendees.

4. Gyms, sports and tuition classes to resume from June 21

From June 21, fitness studios and gyms may resume activities which involve removing one's mask, with safe distancing of at least 2m between individuals (even within a group) and 3m between groups of individuals.

Sports classes, both indoors and outdoors, will be limited to 30 people, including the instructor, and groups must consist of no more than five people.

In-person tuition and enrichment classes for those aged 18 and below may also be allowed to resume from June 21. These include classes involving singing or the playing of wind instruments.

5. Working from home remains the default; targeted support measures to continue

Employers must ensure that employees who can work from home continue to do so even as Singapore reopens gradually, MOH said.

This is so overall footfall and interactions in public are kept low, thereby reducing the risk of infections.

For those who need to return to the workplace, their start times should be staggered and they should be allowed flexible working hours.

Employers will still not be allowed to cross-deploy workers to multiple work sites.

From June 21 to 30, the affected sectors will receive 10 per cent JSS support.

The Covid-19 Driver Relief Fund for taxi and private-hire drivers will also be extended for three more months.

This will be set at $300 per vehicle each month for the first two months, and $150 per vehicle for the third month.

6. Regular testing for staff in higher-risk activities and sale of self-test kits

Regular testing will be implemented for staff working in F&B establishments with dining in, personal-care services requiring the removal of masks, and gyms or fitness studios where customers are unmasked.

The "fast and easy" testing regime will, for example, use antigen rapid tests (ART) for all staff regardless of vaccination status.

ART self-test kits will also be sold at retail pharmacies such as Guardian, Unity and Watsons from June 16.

More details on these kits will be available from June 16, the MOH said.

Sales will initially be limited to 10 kits per person.

7. Vaccination bookings for those aged 12 to 39 to begin on June 11

Singaporeans aged 12 to 39 will be able to register online for vaccination and book an appointment from Friday.

MOH said the booking link may take up to two weeks to be sent to those who register, as more appointment slots for vaccination open up when more supplies arrive.

The rest of the resident population will be invited to register in the coming months.

Those who had earlier recovered from Covid-19 infection are recommended to receive just a single dose of the vaccine, MOH said.

This is because those who have recovered in the last six months are likely to still have strong immunity.

Children under the age of 18 will require parental consent to book an appointment.

Singapore to ease COVID-19 curbs in two phases from June 14
Groups of up to 5 can gather; other activities such as dining in may be allowed from June 21
By Linette Lai, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 11 Jun 2021

Singapore will relax restrictions on social gatherings in a two-step process from Monday, when people will once again be allowed to gather in groups of up to five.

If all goes well, higher-risk activities such as dining in at food and beverage outlets may be allowed a week later, from June 21.

But working from home will remain the default for the entire period to reduce interaction in public areas and footfall on public transport, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said yesterday.

Urging vigilance as Singapore opens up, Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong, who co-chairs the task force handling the pandemic, said: "We may continue to see a few cases every day, but that is the nature of the virus." The aim is to keep overall numbers low and avoid large clusters, he added.

In the first step of Singapore's staggered reopening, operating capacity limits for attractions, cruises, museums and public libraries will go up from 25 per cent to 50 per cent. Size limits for events such as movie screenings and wedding solemnisations will also be increased, although pre-event testing must be in place for gatherings of more than 50 people.

When dining in is permitted, the authorities will be "significantly stepping up enforcement and will take firmer enforcement action for any breaches", MOH said.

Other activities such as wedding receptions and the playing of wind instruments at live performances will also be permitted, while gyms and fitness studios will be allowed to resume mask-off activities.

The number of new Covid-19 cases reported daily has fallen since tightened measures were put in place on May 16, when Singapore saw 38 community cases. This number has remained in the single digits since June 6, with most linked to other cases, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung noted yesterday.

The seven-day moving average of new cases stood at 11.9 on Wednesday, down from 22.6 at the peak of the outbreak.

Mr Ong highlighted how this wave of transmission was controlled without a circuit breaker (CB) using methods such as extensive contact tracing, testing, vaccination, and localised lockdowns of malls and schools.

"That means if there are any future outbreaks, we can use all these methods to control and break the chain of transmission, as opposed to a very blanket approach and a very painful CB," he said.

But the minister also warned against complacency, given how transmissible the Delta variant first discovered in India is.

Singapore will need to see the seven-day rolling average dip further. It will also have to monitor the situation for 14 days - or one incubation cycle of the virus - starting from June 6 before it can be assured that most "embers of this virus... have been put out". June 6 is when Singapore first started seeing low daily community case numbers.

Mr Ong also announced that Singapore citizens aged 12 to 39 will be able to book their vaccination appointments from today. They will be given a two-week priority window in which to do so.

As at Wednesday, more than 2.5 million people - around 44 per cent of Singapore's population - had gotten at least one dose of a Covid-19 jab. Around 49,000 doses are administered daily, with more than 4.4 million doses given overall.

Mr Ong noted that since April 11, around 9 per cent of unvaccinated people who contracted Covid-19 developed severe symptoms, compared with less than 1 per cent of those who were fully vaccinated.

He added that coronavirus self-test kits will soon be available for sale at selected retail pharmacies. They deliver results in less than 20 minutes and are simple to use, he said.

Regular COVID-19 testing for staff in higher-risk settings
Workers in dine-in F&B eateries and gyms included; Govt to pay test costs for 3 months
By Choo Yun Ting, The Straits Times, 11 Jun 2021

Staff who work in higher-risk settings with unmasked customers will have to undergo regular Covid-19 testing, with the Government covering the cost of these tests for the next three months.

These include workers at dine-in food and beverage (F&B) establishments, saunas, gyms and fitness studios where clients are unmasked.

Mandatory fast and easy testing (FET) will start from next month for those working at dine-in F&B establishments, as dining in with a maximum group size of five will be allowed to resume from June 21.

Personal care and appearance services which require masks to be removed, such as facials and saunas, will be allowed to resume from June 14.

This expanded testing regime was announced yesterday by the multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19, alongside the relaxation of measures in two stages.

FET uses tests such as antigen rapid tests, which can produce results in about 30 minutes and can be done on-site.

All workers will have to undergo testing, regardless of their vaccination status.

The Ministry of Health said FET capacity will be ramped up aggressively in the coming months, with mandatory testing progressively rolled out to larger establishments first and extended to smaller businesses later on.

Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19, said yesterday that the Government is working out the details of this new testing regime.

These include the frequency of testing, where it is conducted and whether it can be self-administered. More information will be announced later by the relevant agencies, the minister said.

The regime is part of measures which Singapore is taking to minimise virus transmission and the risk of large clusters breaking out as it reopens in a cautious and controlled manner, he said.

The Government will cover the cost of testing over the next three months for a start, said Mr Wong.

"We are doing that during this period because it is important to get everyone tested regularly and put this in place.

"Beyond that, employers will have to start thinking about incorporating these processes as part of their BCPs (business continuity planning)."

Mr Wong stressed that Singapore must continue to ensure compliance with safe distancing rules and safe management measures, especially in higher-risk settings such as F&B outlets, where people do not have their masks on.

Measures which F&B operators have to take in line with safe distancing rules include ensuring that their restaurants have good ventilation and groups of diners are seated at least 1m apart.

Testing is one of three strategies, alongside contact tracing and vaccination, through which Singapore is battling Covid-19 in the face of new and more contagious variants.

Rostered routine testing is already being conducted in a number of higher-risk settings in Singapore, including migrant worker dormitories, construction sites, shipyards, air and sea ports, hospitals and nursing homes.

Individuals, whether vaccinated or not, are tested once every seven days or once every 14 days, depending on their risk level.

Singaporeans aged 12 to 39 can book vaccination appointments from 11 June 2021
Citizens get two-week priority window to register; about 44% of population have at least one dose
By Lim Min Zhang, The Straits Times, 11 Jun 2021

Singaporeans aged 12 to 39 can book their vaccination appointments from today, as the national vaccination programme is extended.

Citizens will have a two-week priority window to book their appointments, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said yesterday.

"This is a big group of about 1.5 million people who have yet to be vaccinated, so Singapore citizens aged 12 to 39 who have yet to be invited will get a two-week priority window to book your vaccination," he said at a news conference by the multi-ministry task force tackling the Covid-19 pandemic.

In his national address on May 31, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had announced that vaccination for those aged 39 and below would commence from mid-June.

This decision was made after Singapore received further confirmation of faster vaccine deliveries over the next two months, and can further boost its vaccination programme, given the latest supply schedule.

Those aged 39 and younger are the last remaining group to be vaccinated, PM Lee had said, after the roll-out was extended to students earlier this month.

Mr Ong said yesterday that Singapore's vaccination exercise was progressing well, with more than 4.4 million doses administered as at Wednesday.

More than 2.5 million people - about 44 per cent of the population - have had at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, he said.

Singapore's Covid-19 vaccination drive kicked off last December, with healthcare workers the first to receive a jab.

Mr Ong, who co-chairs the task force, also gave an update on the effect of vaccination on the severity of illness should someone contract Covid-19.

Of the local infections since April 11, 9 per cent of those who were unvaccinated developed serious disease, he said. This meant that they needed supplementary oxygen or had to be put in the intensive care unit.

Among those who had been fully vaccinated, only one case required supplemental oxygen, and the patient was already ill before getting infected. So far, 131 people who were fully vaccinated have been infected.

"In other words, 9 per cent versus less than 1 per cent, in fact, less than 0.8 per cent," said Mr Ong.

He added that because younger students can take only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, those who go to a vaccination centre which offers the Moderna vaccine are more likely to get an earlier slot. Locations of vaccination centres and the type of vaccine administered can be found at

In a statement yesterday, MOH said those in the eligible age group of 12 to 39 can register online at the website. Children who turn 12 this year must have crossed their birthday before they are eligible to book a vaccination appointment.

After registration, people will be progressively invited to book their vaccination appointments via an SMS with a personalised booking link sent to the mobile number they had registered with, said MOH. The SMS may take up to two weeks, as more appointment slots will be made available as more supplies arrive.

Those who had registered their interest earlier at do not need to re-register. The invitation to register will eventually be extended to the rest of the population over the coming months, said the ministry.

Children under 18 will require the consent of their parent or guardian to book an appointment.

Children aged 13 and above do not need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian to the vaccination site, unlike those aged 12 or younger.

Target for 3 in 4 residents to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by October: Lawrence Wong
By Lim Min Zhang, The Straits Times, 11 Jun 2021

Singapore is aiming for half its residents to be fully vaccinated by August, and at least 75 per cent by October.

As at Monday (June 7), more than 1.8 million people, or about 30 per cent of the population, have been fully vaccinated.

Finance Minister Lawrence Wong gave the projection at a news conference on Thursday (June 10), as he noted that the United States saw infection rates steadily come down - from a peak in January this year - when about half the population developed immunity to the coronavirus which causes Covid-19.

He added that more than 40 per cent of people in the US are fully vaccinated, and about 10 per cent have been infected with the virus.

Singapore has not reached that level of immunity yet, but "we will get there soon", said Mr Wong.

In his national address on May 31, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the country's target is for everyone who is eligible for a vaccination and wants everyone to get at least their first jab by National Day on Aug 9.

With a higher vaccination rate, compliance with social distancing and safe management measures, regular testing, and faster and more comprehensive contact tracing, Singapore will ease restrictions and gradually restore "our normal lives, both within Singapore and at our borders", said Mr Wong, who is co-chair of the multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19.

For now, phase two (heightened alert) measures will be rolled back from Monday in a cautious and controlled manner, while maintaining strict controls at borders.

The maximum group size for social gatherings will increase from two people to five, among other relaxation of rules.

The second stage of the reopening will happen from June 21, when dining in at eateries may be allowed, with a maximum group size of five.

Such restrictions are needed in phase three (heightened alert) until Singapore's vaccination rate is higher, said Mr Wong.

"It is not quite the full phase three, we call this phase three (heightened alert) because there are still these restrictions in place."

The announcement on the relaxation of rules comes amid a decline in community cases in the past three weeks.

Mr Wong said: "As we progress through these stages (of reopening), we will ease our restrictions and gradually restore our normal lives, both within Singapore and at our borders. Then we will move to phase three, and even beyond phase three, to a new normal phase of living with endemic Covid."

7,000 market stallholders to get a month's worth of rental waivers to cope with decline in business during COVID-19 curbs
By Tay Hong Yi, The Straits Times, 11 Jun 2021

Market stallholders will be getting some help in coping with reduced business during this period of Covid-19 curbs.

A month's worth of rental waivers will be given to around 7,000 market stallholders in markets managed by the National Environment Agency (NEA) or NEA-appointed operators.

In a Facebook post, Dr Khor noted that during the ongoing phase of heightened alert to stem the spread of Covid-19, market stallholders were as affected by lower footfall as cooked-food stallholders.

Rental waivers for cooked-food stallholders in hawker centres, which have seen a significant decline in business, were announced last month as part of a $9 million relief package by NEA.

The June waiver also applied to new cooked-food stallholders with tenancies starting on June 1.

Five months' worth of rental waivers were given to around 14,000 market and cooked-food stallholders last year during the height of the Covid-19 crisis.

Last year's waivers formed part of the Supplementary Budget and the Fortitude Budget unveiled by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat to reduce the operating costs for these stallholders amid flagging business due to pandemic restrictions.

Dr Khor, who is also Senior Minister of State for Transport, encouraged both market and cooked-food stallholders facing significant income loss of at least 50 per cent as a result of the tightened measures to apply for a one-off $500 payout under the Covid-19 Recovery Grant.

She added: "During these difficult times, let us all do our part to support one another, including our stallholders.

"Please support our hawker or market stalls with your next food purchase."

Enhanced Jobs Support Scheme to continue for sectors allowed to reopen only from June 21
By Cheryl Tan, The Straits Times, 11 Jun 2021

With some sectors facing an additional week of closure until June 20, the current enhancements to the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) will be extended for affected businesses such as food establishments that cannot yet resume dining in.

Businesses that had to suspend many, if not all, of their operations because of the tightened measures during phase two (heightened alert) were given JSS support of 50 per cent from May 16 to June 13. This will be extended until June 20, the Ministry of Health said yesterday.

The sectors affected include food establishments, gyms and sports facilities, performing arts organisations and arts education centres.

They will get 10 per cent JSS support from June 21 to June 30, the ministry added.

The scheme provides wage support to employers for the first $4,600 of gross monthly wages paid to each local employee.

In addition, the Ministry of Finance said that selected retail outlets, museums, art galleries and historical sites, affected personal care services, cinema operators and family entertainment centres will continue to receive 30 per cent of JSS support until June 20.

This will be reduced to 10 per cent from June 21 to June 30.

The Finance Ministry had announced on May 28 that the additional support measures, including wage subsidies and one-off payments for individuals and rental reliefs, will cost $800 million.

Singapore will reopen its economy in two phases from Monday, with food and beverage (F&B) establishments, gyms and fitness studios to reopen from June 21, as they have been identified as higher risk.

"These are predominantly the activities where people are engaged in interactions without their mask on," Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said at a virtual news conference yesterday by the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19.

"If you look at it, it is F&B, it is gyms, fitness - these are the higher-risk settings, and that is why we decided to wait for a full incubation cycle of low, stable numbers, and then we will be able to resume these activities on June 21."

Priority is to restart economy before relaxing borders: Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong
By Clara Chong, The Straits Times, 11 Jun 2021

Reopening Singapore's local community and restarting the economy in a safe manner is the Government's immediate priority before border measures can be eased.

Only after the local situation is stable will Singapore have space and capacity to think about how its borders can be relaxed, Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force tackling the Covid-19 pandemic, said at a virtual news conference yesterday.

When asked if expatriates who have called Singapore their home - but currently live outside the country - will have a chance to return, Mr Gan said: "We are very conscious that there are expats who are coming back to Singapore, they have been staying here and working from Singapore for many years... We are constantly reviewing our border control measures.

"In the immediate future, or the next couple of weeks, our focus is... opening up our local community and restarting our economy, allowing more people to gather and allowing dining in to commence."

Singapore is also ramping up its vaccination programme to protect the local population, as well as stepping up its testing and contact-tracing capabilities.

With these enhanced capabilities, Singapore will be able to relook its border control measures.

The Government has also put in place stringent protocols at airports to minimise the risk of transmission.

Once all these are in place, Singapore will be able to adjust its border controls.

Mr Gan noted that many Singaporeans and expatriates are still overseas and planning to return.

He added: "But the priority now is to ensure that the local situation is stable, and we are able to proceed with this phase three (heightened alert) opening in a safe way. And then after that, then we will have more capacity to talk about adjusting our border measures."

Don't take Singapore's multiracialism for granted: Gan Kim Yong
Pandemic may cause frictions to flare up, but Singaporeans must stay cohesive, says Gan Kim Yong
By Linette Lai, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 11 Jun 2021

The recent spate of racist incidents captured on video are a reminder that Singapore's multiracialism cannot be taken for granted, Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong said yesterday.

While pandemic-related stresses may cause frictions to flare up at times, Singaporeans have to remember that they live in a multiracial society and must keep working to strengthen cohesion, he added.

"It is like a vaccination - to vaccinate us against anti-racial sentiments," he said. "We need to continue to work with one another. And fundamentally, the virus does not recognise language, religion or race."

He was responding to a question at a virtual news conference where he was asked about these incidents and how the Covid-19 pandemic may have contributed to them.

In one viral video, Ngee Ann Polytechnic lecturer Tan Boon Lee is seen berating ice cream store owner Dave Parkash, who is of Indian and Filipino parentage and was with his girlfriend. Mr Tan had, among other things, told Mr Parkash that it was a disgrace for a Chinese woman and an Indian man to be dating.

Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said: "Each time we see something like that happening, I think we should take a stand - make it very clear that this does not represent us, and we do not condone any such acts of racism or xenophobia."

He pointed out that the pandemic has also put on display the best of the Singapore spirit, with many people going the extra mile to help those in need, regardless of their race or religion.

Such incidents truly demonstrate Singaporeans' "solidarity and unity with one another", Mr Wong said.

"We should have confidence and faith that as we emerge through this pandemic, we will emerge stronger, better and more united," he added.

Weighing in on the topic, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said Singaporeans' ability to have trust and confidence in one another, despite their differences, is the "most important antibody" any society can have to fight a crisis.

"So, continue to keep that unity and resilience. Keep that trust - that is the main antibody to fight against the pandemic."

Singapore developing plan to live with virus as COVID-19 becomes endemic
High vaccination rates, better treatment and easing of border curbs likely in new normal
By Timothy Goh, The Straits Times, 11 Jun 2021

As Covid-19 becomes endemic around the world, the focus in Singapore will shift from how many cases there are each day, and more to the clinical condition of these cases.

Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said yesterday that in such a scenario, "it is no longer about going after each and every infected case".

He explained that even if a person were to be infected despite being vaccinated, the infection will likely be very mild or even asymptomatic.

"So, we will need a different protocol for such cases," Mr Wong said at a virtual news conference by the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19, which he co-chairs.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, his fellow co-chair, said such a shift is already happening, with the authorities looking at the clinical condition of people infected here.

This means, for instance, examining how many people need oxygen due to the severity of their condition, and how many are in the intensive care unit.

The ministers were responding to a question about Singapore's Covid-19 strategy in the long term when the virus is endemic - meaning it has settled in a certain population in a geographical region and continues to persist.

Some examples of endemic diseases here include influenza, dengue, and hand, foot and mouth disease. This is a lower intensity level than a pandemic, which is the current situation as the coronavirus spreads across the world on a scale and at a speed that are unprecedented.

Mr Wong said it is "very likely" that Covid-19 will never go away.

He added that Singapore is developing a strategy to deal with Covid-19 being endemic, although it is still too early to paint a full picture of what this might look like.

However, he noted that there will likely be several components to life in this new normal.

First, high vaccination rates will be essential. This means not only getting people here vaccinated with their first and second doses, said Mr Wong, but also probably taking booster shots in the future.

For this to happen, Singapore needs a "proper and comprehensive vaccination programme", which the authorities are already working out, he added.

Second, better medical treatments for Covid-19 may be available.

This will give the authorities greater assurance that even if infections were to occur despite vaccination, or on the rare occasions where there are serious illnesses, treatments are available and people can recover, said Mr Wong.

Third, border restrictions will likely be eased, but more risk-based and targeted precautions will need to be in place, taking into account the overall infection situation in other countries as well as the vaccination status of travellers.

Mr Ong said more focus will be placed on the capabilities Singapore has in suppressing clusters, such as testing and quarantining cases.

Mr Wong said: "We will take more aggressive localised actions, and we will try our very best to avoid having to impose general nationwide restrictions like another circuit breaker.

"We think that is the way to live with the virus while enabling most activities to resume."


* Dining in to resume from 21 June 2021 but only in groups of 2, as Singapore opts for calibrated COVID-19 opening
This will be raised to 5 in mid-July as long as situation does not worsen unexpectedly
By Lim Min Zhang, The Straits Times, 19 Jun 2021

Dining in at eateries can resume from Monday, 21 June, but in groups of only up to two people, as the authorities sought a "calibrated reopening" following an increase in Covid-19 community cases over the past week.

The group limit will be increased to five from the middle of next month, barring an unexpected worsening of the virus situation, Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong said yesterday at a media conference by the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19 that he co-chairs.

Other measures will also be eased in two stages. Gyms and fitness studios may resume indoor mask-off sports and exercise activities in group sizes of up to two people from Monday, and up to five people in the middle of next month, although work-from-home remains the default to control transmission risks.

The announcement comes amid a rise in locally transmitted cases brought about by a growing cluster at the 115 Bukit Merah View Market and Food Centre. Dining in has not been allowed since May 16 as part of tightened measures to stem a rise in community cases.

The minister said that the current level of vaccination - particularly at 35 per cent for full vaccinations - is still not high enough.

He said the task force will progressively ease restrictions both within Singapore and at its borders based on two milestones, the first being when 50 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated, and the second when 75 per cent is fully vaccinated.

If restrictions were to be eased too early, big clusters can easily break out, Mr Wong added.

"As we resume activities from June 21, cases are bound to go up... We will do our best to prevent large clusters from arising," he said.

Wedding receptions will remain prohibited until the middle of next month, as these are higher-risk activities where attendees tend to socialise more and over a longer period of time.

There is no change to the maximum group size for social gatherings, which will remain at five, or to the rule on five unique visitors to each household per day.

Eateries should strictly observe safe distancing of at least 1m between groups of diners. Enforcement will be stepped up, said the Ministry of Health (MOH). To further reduce the risk of transmission from patrons talking loudly, recorded music will not be allowed.

People from the same household can eat out at multiple tables, Mr Wong said in response to a question. "If you are not from the same household, then you cannot go and do multiple bookings to have multiple tables. So, the same rules that previously applied will continue to apply," he said.

Regular tests for staff working in higher-risk places, such as eateries, spas, hair salons and gyms, will be rolled out. The 14-day testing regime for them will be made mandatory in the middle of next month, said MOH.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said there were 94 locally transmitted cases in the past seven days, compared with 41 in the previous seven. The proportion of unlinked cases has remained stable at 19 per cent.

Singapore has made progress because it has boosted its capabilities for testing and contact tracing, and vaccinated a good part of its population, he added.

He added that the imperative now is to boost vaccination with the more cautious reopening. Singapore has the capacity to vaccinate more and is constrained only by supplies. "If we are successful (in securing more supplies), by July, we will be able to go beyond the current rate of 47,000 doses per day and open up many more bookings."

Cautious approach to 'buy time' to get more vaccinated: Lawrence Wong
He says vaccination rates are not high enough to proceed with reopening more confidently
By Timothy Goh, The Straits Times, 19 Jun 2021

The cautious approach to reopening is to allow the authorities to "buy time" so that more people can be vaccinated, the multi-ministry task force (MTF) tackling Covid-19 said yesterday.

For example, the authorities have limited dining in to a maximum of two persons from Monday, instead of five people at the same table as announced earlier.

The aim is to increase this limit to five people in the middle of next month, barring a super-spreader event or another big cluster emerging.

Explaining the need for a calibrated approach, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said the task force had received a "whole range of feedback and views" on how to proceed, which fall mainly into two schools of thought.

The first is that the Government should hold off further reopening until a much later date, when Singapore is able to have zero or near-zero Covid-19 cases for many days.

"But this is, in fact, very hard to achieve, and may not even be possible to do so given how transmissible the Delta variant is. And if we were to take this approach, it would mean we have restrictive measures in place for many months, which will cause many businesses to fold.

"So, that is not a very realistic option," said Mr Wong.

He added that with this approach, Singapore would have to constantly move from open to closed.

"I don't think that is a sustainable position, and there may not be a need for us to do that, especially as our vaccination rates continue to go up and provide protection to everyone in Singapore."

The second approach focuses on the argument that Covid-19 is going to be endemic, and that the country's infection rates are very low compared with many other places which have relaxed more restrictions.

Mr Wong said those who think this way would also point to how Singapore has vaccines, arguing that the authorities should "just proceed and to continue to ease up and relax measures and not overreact to each and every new cluster".

"I can understand the sentiments behind this and, indeed, we do want to proceed with our reopening more confidently. But our vaccination rates currently are still not high enough to provide sufficient protection."

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said that without higher vaccination rates, the infection numbers will still matter because "high infections can lead to more severe illnesses, especially amongst those who are more vulnerable".

"By taking a more cautious approach with reopening, we buy time to get more people vaccinated. So, the imperative now is to boost vaccination," he added.

Taking all these factors into account, Mr Wong said the MTF decided to tread a "very careful path forward based on a rigorous assessment of our current situation" in announcing a progressive reopening.

"We are taking a more calibrated, more careful approach - not swinging to either extreme of shutting down, restricting very tightly all the different activities, or opening up too recklessly, but taking a more careful approach of allowing some resumption of activities, still with appropriate safeguards and precautions in place, and buy us time for our vaccination rates to go up," he added.

Mr Ong, who like Mr Wong is a co-chair of the task force, had said at the June 10 MTF media conference that as Covid-19 becomes endemic here, the authorities would shift from just focusing on the number of cases reported each day when deciding measures.

Among other things, the authorities would also look at the condition of those infected - for instance, how many are in intensive care units or need supplemental oxygen.

Asked about the vaccination targets, Mr Wong said there are two key milestones: 50 per cent of the population to be fully vaccinated, which he believes can be done by August or so, and 75 per cent of the population to be fully vaccinated at a later date.

The task force will progressively ease restrictions both within Singapore and at its borders based on these two milestones, he added.

"If our vaccine supplies come in earlier, and we hope they will, we will do everything we can to do so, then we can ramp up and perhaps achieve these milestones earlier," said Mr Wong.

Commenting on the measures in a Facebook post yesterday, President Halimah Yacob said: "I hope that Singaporeans realise that a calibrated approach is essential - while we push on with our plans to improve testing and contact-tracing capabilities and ramp up vaccinations, we must still be nimble enough to respond to the waves of transmissions that may occur."

Study of 29,000 people quarantined in Singapore shows COVID-19 vaccines can prevent infection and severe illness
By Cheryl Tan, The Straits Times, 19 Jun 2021

A local study analysing the data of 29,000 people quarantined in Singapore, including those unvaccinated, has found that Covid-19 vaccines offer 79.1 per cent protection against the disease.

A similar study done in Britain found that vaccination offered 88 per cent protection, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung on Friday (June 18).

"We are 79 per cent, so not very far off," added Mr Ong, who was speaking at the press conference held by the multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19.

Vaccination also reduces the risk of an infection developing into a severe illness.

Mr Ong noted that of the 629 local cases reported since April 11 who had not been fully vaccinated, 54 of them or about 8.6 per cent developed serious illness, needing oxygen supplementation or admission into intensive care units (ICU).

"As for those fully vaccinated, there are altogether 158 persons who have been infected, two of them (1.3 per cent) required oxygen supplementation and none had ever been in the ICU.

"Both also had pre-existing illnesses. One was a patient at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) and the other a resident of MINDSville  @  Napiri," the minister added.

As at Thursday, there are 33 cases linked to the MINSDSville  @  Napiri cluster, while the TTSH cluster with 48 cases had closed on June 6.

"If we exclude all the patients and residents of TTSH and MINDSville (who were infected with Covid-19), altogether there are 120 fully vaccinated individuals who were infected, all of them either had no symptoms or mild symptoms," said Mr Ong.

Giving an update on the vaccination drive here, the minister said as at June 15, more than 4.7 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccines have been administered in Singapore.

More than 2.7 million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

This means that 49 per cent of the population have received the first dose, and slightly over 35 pent have received both doses and are fully vaccinated.

For seniors above the age of 60, 75 per cent of them have received at least one dose of the vaccine or booked an appointment, he said, adding that around 1,000 seniors have been walking directly into vaccination centres each day to receive their shots.

The vaccination rate is about 76 per cent for the 45-59 age group and 69 per cent for those between 40 and 44 years old, with the vaccination drive for the younger age group having started about a month ago.

Those between 12 and 39 years old started receiving their vaccinations about a week ago. Mr Ong said the vaccination rate for this age group is currently at 29 per cent.

"The response of students continues to be very encouraging. So far, 82 per cent of students have either received their first dose or already booked an appointment," he said.

Mr Ong added that the imperative now is to boost nationwide vaccinations. Singapore has administered 47,000 doses a day over the past two weeks, up from 40,000 doses each day last month.

"It is not easy because vaccines are a scarce resource and highly demanded by many countries around the world. But if we are successful, by July, we will be able to go beyond the current rate of 47,000 doses per day and open up many more bookings," he said.

The minister also called on employers to help facilitate their employees' vaccinations, by giving them time off work to get inoculated, as well as time to recover should they suffer from side effects such as fever.

"After all, a workforce with good vaccination is also a stable workforce, and that is good for your business," he said.

Mandatory testing, SMS alerts for those who visit places on the same day as COVID-19 cases
They'll get SMS alerts, be swabbed at testing centres and stay isolated until results are out
By Sue-Ann Tan, The Straits Times, 19 Jun 2021

There will be mandatory swab testing for people who have visited hot spots on the same days as those infected with the coronavirus, the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19 said in an update yesterday.

They will receive health alerts via SMS from the Ministry of Health (MOH).

The ministry said these people will have to undergo mandatory testing at designated testing centres and stay isolated until they receive their results.

"Given the increased transmissibility of viral strains, we will use TraceTogether and SafeEntry data to strengthen our ring-fencing around cases to prevent large clusters from arising," MOH added.

"This will give us greater confidence to resume more activities while preventing transmissions."

It noted that while the risk of infection is lower if they were to test negative, individuals who have been to hot spots visited by Covid-19 cases should continue to limit their interactions with others as an added precaution and restrict their activities to those which are essential.

"In particular, those who need to go to work (as they cannot work from home) will be allowed to do so," MOH said.

"However, they must comply strictly with all the safe management measures at the workplace."

These individuals will also receive DIY test kits at the testing centres.

They will have to self-administer the tests at home over the subsequent days to confirm that they are not infected.

Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the task force, said: "We have already implemented more extensive quarantine operations, but there is a wider ring of people who are not close contacts but may have some possible exposure to the virus.

"For example, you are in the restaurant but not seated together, perhaps at a different table, but you are in this restaurant at the same time or perhaps in a shopping mall at the same time when there are infected cases breaking out."

MOH said further details will be announced when ready.

Mr Wong said: "This will be a new process that we are putting in place to help curb the spread of any new cases that may break out, and we call on everyone in Singapore to do your part to help us control the infection and prevent large clusters from breaking out."

In the coming weeks, SafeEntry Gateway checkout boxes will also be rolled out progressively at venues with high footfall.

"This follows public feedback from users who want to perform SafeEntry checkout, but are unable to do so currently. This will help to facilitate more precise contact tracing efforts," MOH said.

These checkout boxes will be deployed at areas such as malls, hospitals and polyclinics with greater movement of visitors.

They will also be at places where people are likely to be in close proximity for prolonged periods without masks, such as at dine-in food and beverage outlets and gyms.

Eligible businesses will be notified and will receive their checkout boxes in the coming weeks.

MOH said: "Members of the public are encouraged to perform SafeEntry checkout when leaving the premises as far as possible.

"This information will support the contact tracing process by providing more details for the identification of close contacts."

Extended govt support for F&B, hawkers and other sectors hit by COVID-19 measures
By Sue-Ann Tan, The Straits Times, 19 Jun 2021

Government support will be extended for hard-hit sectors such as the food and beverage industry (F&B) and hawkers, the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19 said in an update yesterday.

This is in view of the continued tightened safe management measures affecting various activities until mid-July, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said.

The Jobs Support Scheme's (JSS) current enhancements will be extended for affected sectors by three weeks, before tapering down to 10 per cent for another two weeks. This means closed sectors or sectors with enhanced safe management measures such as F&B, gyms and fitness studios, as well as those in performing arts and arts education, will receive 50 per cent of JSS support from Monday.

This will taper to 10 per cent for two weeks from July 12.

Meanwhile, significantly affected sectors like retail, cinemas, museums and art galleries, historical sites and those in family entertainment will receive 30 per cent of JSS support from Monday, and 10 per cent from July 12.

To provide targeted support to hawkers who are self-employed, the Government will extend the subsidies for fees for table-cleaning and centralised dishwashing services, MOH added. It will also provide rental waivers until mid-July for stallholders in centres managed by the National Environment Agency or NEA-appointed operators.

The Covid-19 Recovery Grant (Temporary) will also be extended until July 31 for other workers who remain affected by the extended tightened safe management measures, MOH said.

Existing recipients who still need help can apply for a second round of support from July 1.

Those eligible can apply online at until July 31. Those who need help completing the online form can call the ComCare Call hotline on 1800-222-0000 or e-mail


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