COVID: No more group-size limits, safe distancing, DORSCON level lowered to yellow

Pedestrians along Orchard Road in Singapore.
Pedestrians along Orchard Road in Singapore. (PHOTO: LightRocket via Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — Singapore will lower its Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) level from orange to yellow, as the city-state will further ease its COVID-19 restrictions from next Tuesday (26 April).

The multi-ministry taskforce in a virtual press conference on Friday announced that the DORSCON level – which was raised to orange in February 2020 – will be adjusted back to yellow given the improving local pandemic situation.

Other than specific high-risk settings, Singapore will lift the limits across all five parameters for safe management measures – such as removing group size limit and safe distancing requirement – except for mask-wearing, which will remain optional outdoors and continue to be required indoors.

In his opening speech at the conference, Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong noted that the number of cases here has been falling and stabilising at an average of about 3,100 per day.

The taskforce co-chair stressed that the situation has changed from over two years ago when the DORSCON level was raised to orange, with high vaccination coverage across the population to combat the higher prevalence of the virus.

But Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, who was also at the conference, cautioned against the "potential curveball" – for instance, the emergence of a new variant – that will knock Singapore back to "square one".

"We can therefore afford to take further steps to restore pre-COVID-19 normalcy. However, given the risk over the horizon, we should not declare a Freedom Day until the pandemic is truly over," said Ong, who is also the taskforce co-chair.

Finance Minister Lawrence Wong noted that Singapore has had one of the lowest COVID-19 fatality rates in the world, due to efforts spanning two years to protect lives and livelihoods in Singapore.

"I echo my colleagues in saying that we couldn't have done all this without the contributions of each and every person in Singapore, especially of course our healthcare and frontline officers," the taskforce co-chair added.

"With these changes, we can now have a well-deserved breather after two very difficult years of fighting the virus. But let's always remember, we are getting closer to the finish line, but the race is not over. And the pandemic is certainly not over."

In response to media queries about revamping the DORSCON model to make it more relevant for future pandemics, Gan said that while it may not be apparent to the members of the public, such alert statuses are very important "from the point of view of the preparedness of government agencies, including the healthcare institutions".

Ong noted that though safe management measures and other healthcare protocols matter much more, the DORSCON system still serves its purpose.

"We will constantly review all our safe management measures as well as the (DORSCON) framework, so we move with the times and have a system that suits the circumstances," he added.

DORSCON Yellow: Major adjustments to community SMMs

From next Tuesday, Singapore will make the following adjustments to community safe management measures, including the removal of check-ins with the TraceTogether application or token at most venues:

  • Group sizes: There will no longer be a group size limit, meaning that individuals will not be required to keep to a group of 10 persons for mask-off activities. The cap on the number of unique visitors per household, previously 10 persons at any one time, will also be lifted.

  • Mask-wearing: Mask-wearing will continue to be required in indoor settings when people leave their homes, including on public transport. Mask-wearing will remain optional in outdoor settings. However, individuals are encouraged to exercise precaution, for example, in crowded outdoor areas.

  • Workplace requirements: All workers may now return to the workplace, an increase from the current limit of 75 per cent of those who can work from home. Workers will be allowed to remove their masks at the workplace when they are not interacting physically with others and when they are not in customer-facing areas.

  • Safe distancing: As group size limits are lifted, safe distancing will no longer be required between individuals or between groups.

  • Capacity limits: The 75 per cent capacity limit for larger settings or events with more than 1,000 pax and that are mask-on will be removed. However, all nightlife businesses – where dancing among patrons is one of the intended activities – will continue to be subject to a 75 per cent capacity limit.

"We continue to encourage all employers to retain and to promote flexible work arrangements and some form of practical work from home arrangements for the employees," said Wong.

More migrant workers to be able to visit community

From next Tuesday, up to 25,000 migrant workers will be able to visit the community on weekdays, and up to 50,000 on weekends and public holidays, for up to eight hours per visit.

This is an increase from the current quotas of 15,000 on weekdays and 30,000 on weekends and public holidays.

Unvaccinated migrant workers will also be allowed to participate in community visits. They will not be required to apply for exit passes or take pre-visit tests before going to recreation centres.

Migrant workers will still need to apply for exit passes and indicate their selected locations in the community. The Ministry of Manpower will monitor the application numbers and continue to conduct regular checks at potential congregation hotspots.

Wong noted that while authorities have significantly eased the measures for migrant workers in the dormitories, control measures will still be in place in such communal living settings due to greater risks of infection.

"But clearly, we are moving in the same direction of easing the measures for migrant workers, and in the dormitories. We will allow, eventually, all of them to go out to the community. There should be no doubt about that," he added, without mentioning a timeline.

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