SINGAPORE – Working from home looks set to be the norm for the “foreseeable future”, as Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing anticipates that majority of the workforce in Singapore will continue to do so even after the circuit breaker period is lifted.
Circuit breaker measures will be in place till 1 June.
Speaking to reporters at a virtual doorstop on Sunday (3 May), Chan said “Prior to the circuit breaker measures, we reduced work activities onsite by about 70 per cent, with most people working from home. This is likely to continue even beyond the circuit breaker measures.”
This is, the minister said, the first step in the government’s strategy to progressively reopen the economy.
“Many people have gotten used to the use of the Internet platform for meetings, co-ordination and for work that doesn't require onsite activities. They will pretty much continue.”
Secondly, on the resumption of manufacturing and production activities, Chan said, “We will need to make sure that we put in place what we call the safe working environment measures, and also the safe cohorting measures beyond work.” He encouraged companies to prepare early and to begin putting in place not only safe distancing protocols but also make use of technology solutions to track and trace.
“For example, companies and management must take responsibility to advise their workers to not mix and maintain the social cohorting discipline beyond work, so that employees in different cohorts, in different shifts, different work sites, do not mix and interact outside work,” he said.
“This will be critical for us, because if there should be a flare up of a case in any one particular group, we can quickly isolate that group and allow the rest of the work to continue. For the foreign workers in Singapore, the companies will also put in measures to monitor their living conditions, and they should also use the same philosophy of having the business continuity measures applied to the workers whether they are locals or foreigners,” he added.
When pressed for the percentage or numbers within the workforce that the government anticipates will be able to return to workplaces, Chan said, “We are not focused on the numbers, we are focused on the safe working conditions. So progressively, company by company, we’ll work with them to put in place safe working measures, safe cohorting measures, so that they can restart their operations on a sustainable basis.
Easing of circuit breaker measures
On Saturday, Singapore announced that it will be progressively relaxing its circuit breaker measures in the coming weeks, and allow the resumption of certain businesses and activities amid a slowdown in community transmissions of COVID-19.
Among the first measures to be relaxed from Tuesday include allowing traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) needle acupuncture for pain management, if assessed by the TCM practitioner to be essential.
From 12 May, retail laundry services, barbers and hairdressers – for basic haircut services – and the retail of pet supplies can resume operations.
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