SINGAPORE - With local Covid-19 cases climbing, the authorities said on Friday (Sept 24) that they will be tightening restrictions to prevent daily infections from rising at the current rate.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) said that if the infection rate continues on its current trajectory, Singapore can expect to reach a daily count of about 3,200 cases in the next week.
While MOH said Singapore does not have to return to a state of heightened alert, some measures will have to be tightened for about a month from next Monday to Oct 24 to reduce the strain on healthcare capacity.
1. Group sizes for social gatherings cut from five to two
This applies to the number of unique visitors each household can receive per day, with the exception of grandchildren being cared for by grandparents.
Groups of up to two will be allowed to dine at regular food and beverage establishments if both diners are fully vaccinated.
Unvaccinated individuals with a valid negative pre-event test result, recovered individuals, and children aged 12 and below may also be included in such groups of two.
Hawker centres and coffee shops will continue to be open for diners in groups of up to two regardless of vaccination status.
Individuals are also urged to continue limiting their overall number of social gatherings to one per day, whether to another household, or meet friends and family members in a public place.
2. Work from home as the default for employees who can do so
Employers should continue to implement flexible working hours and stagger the start times of employees who need to return to the workplace, said MOH.
Staff who are unable to work from home are strongly encouraged to self-test weekly using an antigen rapid test kit.
Those who are able to work from home but need to return to the workplace for ad hoc reasons may do so after testing negative via the antigen rapid test before returning onsite.
There should continue to be no cross-deployment of workers to multiple worksites for those who need to work at one. Social gatherings at the workplace will continue to be disallowed.
The 10-day snap work-from-home regime - which kicks in when three or more employees who have returned to the workplace test positive for Covid-19 in seven consecutive days - will be suspended.
3. Home-based learning for all primary, special education schools extended to Oct 7
The Ministry of Education had earlier announced that home-based learning will be implemented for these schools from Sept 26 to Oct 6.
As an added precaution, the home-based learning period will be extended till Oct 7. As Oct 8 is Children's Day and a designated school holiday, this extension will allow students to stay home for the rest of the week.
4. Expanding the group eligible for Covid-19 vaccine boosters
From Oct 4, those aged between 50 and 59 who have completed their vaccination regimen with two doses at least six months ago will be progressively invited to receive their booster dose of an mRNA vaccine that has been preliminarily approved for use in Singapore.
An SMS with a personalised booking link will be sent to the mobile number that they had registered with for their first two doses for them to book a new appointment. These individuals may receive their booster dose at any vaccination centre, polyclinic or participating public health preparedness clinic.
Vaccination sites carrying the Moderna mRNA vaccine will also begin administering the vaccine at a dosage of 50 micrograms for booster doses from Sept 25. This is half of the 100mcg dose used in the primary vaccination course.
Evidence has shown that the 50mcg dosage is sufficient to boost immune response significantly.
There are no safety concerns for persons who have already received 100mcg of the Moderna vaccine for their booster dose.
5. Enhancing self-testing
From Saturday, eight regional screening centres and three quick test centres will be open on weekends to facilitate prompt testing.
Such weekend visits are by appointment only to prevent overcrowding. Booking of slots is open from 6pm on Friday to 3pm on Sunday for each weekend. More details are at this website.
From Oct 1, MOH will publish on its website a map of areas recently frequented by a larger number of confirmed Covid-19 cases to guide individuals' movements and activities.
Individuals who have been to these hot spots during the same time frame are encouraged to monitor their health, perform regular antigen rapid tests throughout the 10 days following their potential exposure, and minimise any unnecessary interaction with others.
6. $650 million in support measures
The Government will enhance the Jobs Support Scheme support to 25 per cent for this period (Sept 27 to Oct 24) for sectors significantly affected by the tightened measures.
These sectors include food and beverage, retail, cinemas, museums, art galleries, historical sites, family entertainment, tourism, gyms and fitness studios, and performing arts and arts education.
A two-week rental waiver will be provided for qualifying tenants on government-owned commercial properties. They include cooked food and market stallholders in centres managed by the National Environment Agency (NEA) or NEA-appointed operators.
Taxi and private-hire car drivers will continue to receive a payout of $10 per vehicle per day in October, and $5 per vehicle per day in November under the Covid-19 Driver Relief Fund.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.