COVID-19: Up to 2 children, grandchildren can visit seniors per day from 2 June

SINGAPORE — Seniors will be allowed to receive visits from their children and grandchildren after the circuit breaker ends on 1 June.

There’s a limit though: parents, grandparents and elderly in-laws living apart from their children and grandchildren can receive a maximum of two visitors per day – and they must be children or grandchildren who live together in the same household. Siblings living apart are still not allowed to visit one another, except in rare exceptions.

Since 9 April, two days after the circuit breaker commenced, authorities have barred parents from dropping their children off with their grandparents on a daily basis.

In a virtual media conference on Tuesday (19 May), Health Minister and COVID-19 multi-ministry taskforce co-chair Gan Kim Yong said that from 2 June, “each household will be allowed to visit their parents or grandparents (who are) staying elsewhere”.

However, as seniors are a particularly vulnerable group, they “should not go out visiting the children”, Gan stressed. “This is to protect the seniors, to encourage them to continue to stay at home”.

To date, Singapore has 28,794 coronavirus cases, of which 22 patients have died from COVID-19 complications while nine others who tested positive for the virus have died from unrelated causes. About one in five among those who are 80 and above who tested positive here, has not survived the infection.

Such measures are part of Phase 1 of the government’s re-opening approach, which includes the resumption of some healthcare services with appropriate safe distancing and precautionary measures.

These include re-opening specialist outpatient, community-based and chronic disease management services, and traditional Chinese medicine needle acupuncture for all conditions.

On the visiting of seniors, Gan explained, “Many seniors have used the Internet to keep in touch with (their) children and grandchildren during this period, but we understand that (they) miss seeing their family members.”

After careful consideration, the government can “allow some flexibility”, he said, but with some restrictions, such as limiting such visits to one per day.

For families with a large number of off-springs, Gan suggested for them to stagger the visits over a period of days, capping at two persons per day per visit.

“We hope that you understand the purpose of these rules is to protect the seniors, because if you have many people coming to the household, many households come to the seniors, you're going to end up with a party,” he said.

However, exceptions will be made – on an appeal basis – for seniors who do not have their own children, noted Gan. This group may have to rely on their siblings or nieces and nephews to visit them, he explained.

On the limitations of the visits, Gan stressed, “I must say that (this) is not easy for us to enforce, and these rules are not rules and regulations to try to catch you.”

So instead of focusing on how we can penalise you (via fines or jail terms), I think better to focus on the purpose and the spirit of these rules and regulations, and that is to protect the seniors in your family in your household.”

But he cautioned that if the authorities are made aware of large gatherings at one’s house, be it via feedback from neighbours or other channels, they “will have to take action to prevent the spread of this virus which will endanger everybody else”.

“So we really want to urge each and every one of you to abide by the spirit of these rules, rather than to just follow the letter of the law,” Gan stressed.

Similarly, senior activity centres will also gradually resume operations with some activities that help ensure the psychological wellbeing of seniors, especially those with little or no support at home.

However, activities such as group exercises or karaoke will continue to be suspended, Gan said. Essential senior care services such as residential care and home care services will continue.

As more activities resume in Phase 1, the government expects to see a rise in daily new cases, with the risk of resurgence in community transmission remaining high, he added.

“We should continue to leave home only for essential services and wear a mask when you're out. Seniors should continue to stay at home, as I mentioned, as much as possible.”

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