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SINGAPORE — While local and foreign delegates at next month's Bloomberg New Economy Forum (NEF) may dine together in groups of up to five at NEF venues and other designated restaurants, it is not "practical" to extend the same concession to Singaporeans, said Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong on Monday (25 October).
According to local media reports, he pointed out that the concession was only being extended to a limited number of delegates at a forum – more than 300 participants – who are required to undergo pre-event testing (PET) on each day of the event. They may also dine with non-NEF delegates at specific venues, provided the latter undergo a pre-event COVID-19 test and test negative.
On the possibility of a pre-testing requirement for larger groups in public to dine just like for the Bloomberg forum, “we have to consider whether that is practical," said Gan. The Bloomberg forum is held for a specific period and would not be a good solution if this were to apply to anyone who goes for a meal, he added.
While the number of forum delegates is limited, allowing members of the public to dine in larger groups would mean allowing more than 5 million people to do so, he added.
"Those who are infected may bring the virus back home and they may have seniors at home who will be exposed to the danger," the co-chair of the multi-ministry task force on COVID-19 said.
"So we have to bear this in mind as we discuss and explore the possibilities for opening up dining in flexibility for locals."
'Very strict requirements'
Gan was speaking at a virtual press conference open only to Singapore Press Holdings and Mediacorp outlets, as well as the social news site Mothership, where he addressed fierce online criticisms of the dining concessions afforded to NEF delegates, which were revealed on Sunday.
A two-person rule for dining in has been imposed till 21 November as part of safe management measures (SMMs) in Singapore's Stabilisation Phase. The NEF will take place from 16 to 19 November at Capella Singapore, while prevailing SMMs are expected to be reviewed before 21 November.
Gan reiterated the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and Economic Development Board's (EDB) earlier comments that the NEF delegates are subject to very strict requirements. Foreign delegates arriving for the forum must be fully vaccinated and upon arrival, take a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test and stay in their hotel rooms till a negative result is confirmed.
Venues are designated and occupied solely for the event to ensure that they are "bubble-wrapped" and safe for everyone, said Gan. These venues are likely to be restaurants in hotels where delegates are are staying in, or at least in the vicinity.
“In order for the Bloomberg forum to be effective...we will need to ensure that they have a space to be able to interact with one another...Not just one-to-one, but carry out discussions in a group setting. Therefore we have allowed them to have a larger group when they are dining,” Gan said.
The measures are stricter than existing ones for larger-scale events for Singaporeans. For example, at wedding receptions, pre-event testing is required for all attendees unless they are fully vaccinated, have recovered from COVID-19 or are aged 12 and below.
Critical event for Singapore
The NEF is expected to draw current and former heads of state and global chief executive officers. It is critical for Singapore's strategic position as a business hub, said Gan, who called the event a vote of confidence for the city-state and its ability to manage the pandemic.
“It is important for Singapore, as a hub city, to remain open. This is not only for purposes of business, it's also important for some of our own communities’ social needs.”
The minister added that business networking is a key reason that the delegates, many of whom will travel to Singapore from faraway places, are being allowed to meet in groups of five.
"You do want to meet as many people as you can (within limited time)...Therefore, in order for the Bloomberg forum and MICE events to be effective, we will need to ensure that they have a space to be able to interact with one another so that they can network."
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