COVID-19: Stadiums to be shut, parents banned from leaving children with grandparents daily

Wong Casandra
Senior Reporter

SINGAPORE — Parents are no longer allowed to drop their children off with their grandparents on a daily basis, the government said on Thursday (9 April) while clarifying a ban on social gatherings which came into force on Tuesday.

All stadiums, previously opened for individuals to exercise within safe social distances, will also be closed after people continue to disregard “circuit breaker” rules by exercising in groups.

Speaking at a COVID-19 multi-ministry taskforce virtual press conference, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong stressed that the authorities will step up enforcement to ensure the public abide strictly to the measures.

“While the crowds have thinned in town and central business districts, there are still some social gatherings taking place close to people's homes in our heartlands,” noted Gan, who is also the taskforce co-chair.

Some people are also not observing safe distancing measures when they have to go out for essential purposes such as to buy food, he added.

As such, more than 10,000 advisories have been issued by enforcement officers over the last two days, said Gan.

“This cannot continue,” he stressed. “The ‘circuit breaker’ measures will only be effective if all of us abide by the rules and bear the collective responsibility of keeping one another safe.”

Gan reiterated the authorities’ plea for people to stay home and only go out for essential activities such as to buy food or seek urgent medical attention.

These can include visiting elderly parents who lived alone and need assistance with their daily needs.

But interaction with them should be kept to a minimum and strictly hygienic, Gan said.

As such, he added that the government will disallow parents from dropping their children off with their grandparents every day.

Children should be left with their grandparents throughout the entire “circuit breaker” period if need be, Gan noted.

“Because every time you bring your children to their grandparents, we expose them again and again to potential infection,” he explained. “I know these measures are very painful, but they are necessary to protect our seniors.”

However, parents working in essential services may appeal to the government to allow them to leave and pick up their children with grandparents daily.

The government will consider allowing it on a case-by-case basis, stressed Gan, only if the workers have exhausted all other caretaking avenues.

Don’t exercise, jog, cycle in groups

Venues, such as stadiums, were kept open during the “circuit breaker” period to give people an avenue to exercise “without bunching together”, National Development Minister and taskforce co-chair Lawrence Wong said.

“The basic point is this – we are not stopping people from going out to exercise, but if you want to exercise, do it by yourself or do it with a family member (who) is already living with you; and do it in your own neighbourhood,” he added.

“Do not exercise in groups, do not jog in groups, do not cycle in groups – any such activities would be an offence.”

However, people have been gathering together to exercise in stadiums, defeating the purpose of the current “circuit breaker” measures.

“We have decided, from henceforth, to close stadiums altogether, because if there is no compliance and if these venues continue to be used for congregation of groups, then we cannot allow that to continue,” Wong explained.

He said that the authorities will continue to enforce the measures strictly and that they may have to tighten them up, including closing more premises, as they monitor movement over the next few days.

For instance, while authorities currently allow people from driving out or going further away from their neighbourhood to exercise, this may come under review and further tightened.

Wong also noted that there are more than 2,500 enforcement officers actively monitoring on the ground thus far.

Authorities are “going all out” to enforce the rules, with efforts focused on “hotspots” here, including wet markets and parks, he added.

“We do know that many Singaporeans are used to going to wet markets on weekends, particularly in the morning. So, now we are controlling the entry (and) exit...There will be queues building up,” said Wong.

If that is not sustainable and people refuse to change their shopping habits, authorities may have to take more drastic measures, he added.

This also applies to parks. “I can't close a park, but what we can do, and will do, is control access where it’s feasible,” said Wong.

Access will be strictly controlled in some parks, he added, without naming them. “If the numbers build up, then we will stop people from entering the park altogether.”

The COVID-19 Temporary Measures Act, passed in Parliament on Tuesday, gives authorities the power to ban events and gatherings, or impose conditions on how they are conducted. This new regulation also prohibits private parties or gatherings of any size with families or friends not living together, and applies both to private and public spaces.

Those caught flouting these regulations will first be given a written warning and subsequently face a $300 composition fine or prosecution for repeated offences.

A first-time offender who is prosecuted under the Act can face a maximum fine of $10,000, or a jail term of up to six months, or both. A second-time or subsequent offender can face a maximum fine of $20,000, or a jail term of up to a year or both.

“I appeal to everyone during this long weekend to stay at home. If you want to connect with your friends, your relatives, call them or have a virtual meet-up with them over the Internet or video calls,” said Gan.

“Each of us must take the ‘circuit breaker’ measures seriously...The health of all depends on each of us.”

To date, Singapore has 1,910 cases of the virus, including 460 who have fully recovered and six who have died.

Shaw Lodge Dormitory was identified as the 10th and latest cluster linked to a foreign worker dormitory on Thursday. Some 460 cases, nearly one-quarter of the overall count here, have been linked to such places of residence.

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