Streamlining of COVID rules re-scheduled for 15 March: MTF

In this photograph taken on February 18, 2022, office workers go out for their lunch break in the Raffles Place financial business district in Singapore. - Rivals Singapore and Hong Kong have become pandemic polar opposites, the former opting to live with the coronavirus and reopen to the world while the latter doubles down on zero-Covid and its international isolation. - To go with AFP story Health-virus-Hong Kong-China-Singapore, FOCUS by Holmes Chan with Catherine Lai in Singapore (Photo by Roslan RAHMAN / AFP) / To go with AFP story Health-virus-Hong Kong-China-Singapore, FOCUS by Holmes Chan with Catherine Lai in Singapore (Photo by ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Office workers go out for their lunch break in Raffles Place. (PHOTO: Roslan RAHMAN / AFP)

SINGAPORE — Singapore is taking another tentative step towards living with COVID-19 as it will streamline safe management measures (SMM) from Tuesday (15 March), more than two weeks after the plan was postponed due to a surge in infected cases.

The multi-ministry taskforce on COVID-19 (MTF) on Friday said during a virtual press conference that it will allow, among others, groups of five to visit homes at any one time and social gatherings of up to five at workplaces.

It is part of the so-called SMM 1–5 framework announced, which will apply to:

  • Group sizes

  • Mask-wearing

  • Workplace requirements

  • Safe distancing

  • Capacity limits

The move was initially set to take place on 24 February but was postponed amid high COVID case numbers and hospital occupancy. It was again postponed last Saturday.

However, there will not be any streamlining or easing of restrictions on nightlife activities, such as the sale of alcohol past 10.30pm, and, and live music.

"That's something we are studying very carefully and as I said, when we are ready, we will provide further details," said Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, who is also taskforce co-chair.

Health Minister and co-chair Ong Ye Kung stressed that most significantly, streamlining of measures will allow sports activities to resume, adding that there is no clear evidence that such activities drive infections.

"After two years of suspending sporting activities, the suspension is taking its toll, especially among our young. In the coming weeks, the Ministry of Culture, Community, and Youth will bring back sporting activities progressively, starting with selected operator supervised facilities," he added.

The SMM 1 to 5 as well as the resumption of sports are "essential steps" to prepare Singapore to live with COVID-19 and enable authorities to progressively ease the SMMs when conditions further improve in time to come, Ong noted.

INFOGRAPHIC: Ministry of Health
INFOGRAPHIC: Ministry of Health

Group sizes

As group size directly affects the number of close contacts in society, and is likely to be the key factor in driving infections, the permissible group size for social gatherings remains at five persons.

However, the maximum number of unique visitors per household will be adjusted from five persons per day, to five persons at any one time.

"This may be seen as an easing (of measures) in some sense, but in fact, most households do not receive new sets of visitors outside of festive periods," said Wong.

"Those who want to meet multiple groups of friends, they're probably already doing so outside of their homes anyway."

Mask-wearing

Mask-wearing will continue to be required as a default, as it confers significant protection against infection.

Workplace requirements

While the current posture of allowing up to 50 per cent of employees who can work from home to return to the office will be maintained, workers who have face masks on will not need to maintain safe distancing in the workplace and social gatherings of up to five persons will be allowed.

Safe distancing

Safe distancing is still required for all mask-off settings, and encouraged but not required for mask-on settings. However, the distance will be streamlined to a single safe distance of one metre for all settings.

Capacity limits

Specific event size limits for events such as religious services, business events will be lifted, and will instead be set based on the capacity of the venue.

For large events and settings of more than 1,000 pax, such as attractions, cruises and MICE and large work-related events, a capacity limit of 50 per cent will be set. For smaller settings and events with 1,000 pax or less, they can proceed without any capacity limit.

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