Vaccinated, living in same household? You can soon dine in groups of up to five

SINGAPORE — From Wednesday (10 November), up to five vaccinated diners from the same household can eat at the same table at F&B outlets.

This includes children aged 12 and below, who are not yet covered under the national vaccination programme.

This easing of measures, however, will not be extended to hawker centres and coffee shops as they are unable to conduct comprehensive checks of all their diners, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) in a press release on Monday.

"We are prepared to extend the same concession to hawker centres and coffee shops once they have put in place additional control measures," added the MOH.

The National Environment Agency and Singapore Food Agency will be engaging the hawkers’ associations and coffee shop operators respectively on this matter.

Last month, co-chair of the multi-ministry task force on COVID-19 (MTF) Lawrence Wong said that families of up to five from the same household might be allowed to dine in together once the weekly infection growth rate – the ratio of community cases in the past week over the week – went below 1.

As of Sunday, the growth rate was 0.81, down from Saturday's 0.83 – the fifth day in a row that the figure was reported to be below one by authorities.

The MTF told reporters at a virtual media briefing that strict enforcement actions will be taken against any individuals who breach this rule by pretending to be from the same household as well as F&B outlets that do not implement the necessary checks.

Those who are vaccinated but are not from the same household can dine in only in a group of up to two.

Errant individuals will be fined, and F&B outlets will be subject to immediate closures. Such penalties will apply even for first-time offenders.

Asked how the new rule will be enforced, Wong, who is also Finance Minister said that authorities will take a "practical" approach. "If they are adults who have children, it's very likely that they are going to be from the same household but it's also quite clear which other groups that will not be from the same household.

"And if these groups do gather together in a restaurant, perhaps the individuals pretend that they're from the same household, managed to get around the entry checks at the restaurant, or perhaps because the restaurant itself doesn't put in place a proper system of control. That's when we will take firm enforcement actions."

Music allowed in F&B outlets

F&B outlets will also be allowed to play soft recorded music from Wednesday, but live music and entertainment remain forbidden.

Other measures include an increase in zone sizes for various event categories such as congregational worship and live performances, whilst keeping within overall attendance numbers.

At the same time, vaccination-differentiated safe measurement measures will be expanded to more settings over time, starting with residential care homes.

These measures will apply to areas like visitations and activities for residents, said the MOH, adding that it will share more details when ready.

'We don't work that way'

Citing concern from F&B outlets, the MTF was asked by a reporter about the possibility of rolling back the ease in dining rules, should the infection ratio rise again.

Health Minister and MTF co-chair Ong Ye Kung chafed at this, saying, "We have tried to explain many times: we don't operate on the basis that you reach a certain number and therefore we do certain things, because the situation is just so dynamic. We are balancing between safe management, vaccination, hospitals, and (those are) the balls we always juggle in the air."

Stressing that the stabilisation in ICU numbers was a key factor in their decision, Ong added, "Even if the ratio goes to one or slightly above one, doesn't mean that we will revert, because we don't work that way. One of the major factor that has led to this decision is also that ICU numbers have been stabilised."

Wong said that it was a matter of how people respond to the new measures. "If people let their guard down, and see this very controlled move, as an excuse to just...go out and relax, celebrate, I think, then we will...see the ratio rising much higher than what we have anticipated."

Piloting easing of measures in sports settings

Authorities will also explore further easing of safe management measures for settings that are able to enforce both vaccination-differentiated measures and pre-activity testing, said the MOH.

Under this regime, all participants will need to be fully vaccinated and will be required to produce a valid negative ART result on-site prior to the activity.

From Wednesday, pilots will begin in sports settings to allow the resumption of team sports for a group of up to 10 fully vaccinated persons to play together in controlled and supervised settings at suitable ActiveSG sports centres and PA community clubs.

Such pilots will also begin at selected mass sporting events and MICE events. If successful, these pilots will be expanded to additional settings, said the MOH.

Additional reporting by Wong Casandra

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