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SINGAPORE — Singapore will enter its Phase 3 of reopening in two weeks’ time on 28 December, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Monday (14 December), as the number of COVID-19 cases continued to fall in the country.
Lee made the announcement in a 15-minute national broadcast just before a media conference to be chaired by the ministerial task force on COVID-19.
One “significant change” is to allow groups of up to eight to gather, up from the current maximum of five, he added.
“So eight people can dine out together, or visit someone’s home. This will make it easier to hold family get-togethers during the festive period,” Lee said.
But Lee also cautioned that the battle against the novel coronavirus is “far from won”, even as Singapore embarks on Phase 3.
“The COVID-19 virus has not been eradicated. There is a long way to go,” he added.
“Progressing from Phase 2 to Phase 3 is a calibrated, careful move. We are easing the restrictions in a controlled way, so that we can keep the COVID-19 situation stable and take more steps forward later.”
Earlier in his speech, Lee also noted that the number of COVID-19 cases had fallen from more than 1,000 cases in March and April to zero cases of local transmission currently on most days.
Further reopening of activities in Phase 3
The Ministry of Health (MOH) released more details of easing measures for Phase 3 in a press release on Monday.
For instance, the capacity limits for malls and large standalone stores will be increased from 10 square metres per person to eight square metres per person. Attractions may also apply now to the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) to increase their operating capacity from 50 per cent to up to 65 per cent.
All religious organisations will be allowed to increase their capacity for congregational and other worship services to up to 250 persons in zones of up to 50 each. Live performance “elements” will also be allowed in places of worship with the necessary safe management measures in place.
For marriage solemnisations held in the home, the hosting household will be able to invite up to eight visitors – excluding members of the hosting household, the solemniser, and vendors – even if this exceeds the existing cap of 10 persons.
Funerals, funerary-related activities, and marriage solemnisations held indoors will also be allowed to have live instrumental music, except for wind instruments.
Limits on gatherings at live performances for arts and culture in indoor venues will also be increased to up to 250 persons with multiple zones at 50 each. For outdoor venues, there will be live performance pilots for up to 250 persons in zones of up to 50 persons each.
“We will continue to conduct pilots in some higher-risk activities and settings such as busking and live performances in outdoor venues, karaoke, nightlife, which will allow us to assess how these activities can take place and scale-up safely,” said the MOH.
Education Minister Lawrence Wong, who is co-lead of the COVID-19 multi-ministry taskforce, said during a press conference on the same day that authorities will be “prepared to allow for further relaxation of the measures” within Phase 3 itself, be it for domestic activities within Singapore or control measures at Singapore’s borders.
“The approach we will take is to conduct pilots in some of these higher-risk activities and settings in order to better understand the risks before we decide to take a further move. At the same time, we will continue to build up our capabilities,” said Wong.
He also reiterated that Singapore is poised to achieve a participation rate of around 70 per cent in its TraceTogether programme by end-2020, which was set as one of the requirements before Singapore can move to Phase 3.
“We are now at a significant milestone, and at a new phase of fighting the virus, but all our hard-won gains against COVID-19 will evaporate if we start to relax now,” said Wong.
With the new measures for Phase 3 coinciding with the festive period, Wong cautioned Singaporeans to socialise “responsibly”, even in slightly larger numbers, and “keep up the good practices” cultivated over the past few months.
WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY WONG CASANDRA
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