SINGAPORE — In a bid to further curb the spread of COVID-19, Singapore authorities will impose enhanced control measures at various hotspots amid concerns of crowding and poor adherence to safe distancing rules.
Speaking during an online conference helmed by the multi-ministry COVID-19 taskforce on Friday (24 July), National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said access to public spaces, such as parks and beaches, will be “proactively” closed off when they approach capacity limits. Carparks serving these popular hotspots may also be selectively closed.
Agencies will also step up enforcement and take firm action against safe distancing breaches, especially at hotspots where the risks of transmission are greater.
“We have observed some areas where there have been more people gathering in recent times, particularly at the beaches and the parks over the recent weekends; last weekend in particular, perhaps because that was the start of the school holidays,” noted Wong, who is the taskforce co-chair.
His comments echoed that by Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli, who said in a Facebook post on Tuesday that “complacency may be setting in”, as seen in the “extremely crowded” beaches at East Coast Park and Sentosa last weekend.
Masagos also mentioned the 28 individuals who would be charged in court for allegedly violating safe distancing rules through social gatherings during the circuit breaker period and Phase 1 of reopening.
Over the last weekend, the National Parks Board issued more than 100 fines to individuals who failed to adhere to safe distancing measures at gardens, parks, and nature reserves.
Wong also said that authorities are also continuing to “watch very closely” the popular nightspots where people gather for dining.
“Name the nightspots that you frequent – whether it is Holland Village, Dempsey, Robertson Quay, or Circular Road, our safe distancing ambassadors and enforcement officers are deployed regularly to monitor and take enforcement action, where necessary,” he added.
For instance, suspension notices and fines were issued against two F&B establishments along Circular Road – Try Again and Los Amigos – last week.
“They are closed for dining in, and the establishments were also issued with fines because of breaches of safe distancing measures and they have groups of more than five people gathering there, and this was done even after warnings were issued to these establishments,” said Wong.
Community cases low, but several continue to visit places while symptomatic
Health Minister and taskforce co-chair Gan Kim Yong pointed out that the number of community cases remains low “on the whole”, with about four per day in the past week.
There are about five unlinked cases per day in the past week here, with most detected as part of proactive testing of those in essential services, including the construction and related sectors, he added.
“Most of these workers are serology positive, meaning their infections are not recent ones, but previous ones,” said Gan.
The prevalence of unlinked cases picked up from those who presented with acute respiratory infection has also remained low at a total average of about three cases in the past week, he added.
However, Gan expressed concern about analysis showing that some 40 per cent of community cases here continued to engage in activities after developing symptoms and before they were isolated.
Of these, about a third went to work and many of them had visited places like shopping centres, supermarkets, and hawker centres, he said.
Warning that such behaviour would jeopardise the collective efforts to combat COVID-19, Gan added, “We urge everyone to see a doctor early if you feel unwell, and to stay at home throughout the duration of your medical leave, or before your swab results come back.”
Over the past months, authorities have also conducted swab operations arising from new emerging workplace clusters and retail businesses frequented by multiple positive cases, he noted.
Two such operations associated with workplaces were conducted at Keppel Shipyard and Northpoint City, where over 1,300 workers were tested. Two positive cases were uncovered while six others were tested as persons under quarantine as a result of their close contact with the confirmed cases.
Close to 60 staff of Sheng Siong supermarket at New World Centre and over 40 staff at Haniffa supermarket at Dunlop Street were also recently tested for the virus. None have tested positive.
Gan also said that the National Environment Agency is planning to progressively expand waste-water monitoring for potential COVID-19 clusters to include not just more foreign workers’ dormitories, but other populous living quarters such as nursing homes and hostels.
The surveillance is currently implemented at 34 such dorms. Separately, all dorms in Singapore and workers living there are expected to be cleared of the virus by 7 August, with the exception of 17 standalone blocks in eight purpose-built dorms which serve as quarantine facilities as well as 28,000 workers still serving out their isolation period.
Following that, the workers will continue to be regularly and routinely tested as they go back to work.
While this will mean that the daily reported cases will fall by around middle of August, Wong cautioned, “That shouldn't be a reason for us to go out to celebrate and to have a big party. Again, remember, this fight is not over. There is still a long way to go.”
To date, Singapore has 49,375 COVID-19 cases, of which some 94 cent are foreign workers living in dorms.
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