Making it clear that it cannot be business as usual, Singapore announced a fresh set of measures to ensure that individuals do not gather around one another in public – and to keep a safe distance apart if they must – to cut down the risk of local Covid-19 transmission.
All events and gatherings with 250 or more people in attendance at any one time must be suspended until June 30, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong announced yesterday.
Even if the events are smaller, those attending them will have to be placed a safe and sufficient distance apart.
Safe distancing will also be the norm at public areas such as entertainment venues, restaurants, hawker centres and cinemas, where patrons will have to be placed at least 1m apart.
The distance can be achieved by using floor markers in queues or alternate seating. The measures will apply to religious and private gatherings as well.
Meanwhile, the suspension of all social activities for seniors by government agencies will be extended for another two weeks until April 7.
The authorities have also called on employers to get their staff to work via telecommuting or to work from home.
“So, as a default option, all employers should seek to do that,” said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force to fight the coronavirus.
If employees must go to the office, they must be put on staggered work hours so that they do not go to or leave office at the same time.
The two ministers outlined the different lines of defence that Singapore was forming against the coronavirus as another 40 Covid-19 cases were announced yesterday. Singapore’s total number of cases has climbed to 385.
Contact tracing was set to be bolstered with a new smartphone app that would potentially help the authorities track those who have been exposed to confirmed coronavirus cases. Using Bluetooth technology, the app can identify people who have been within 2m of one another for 30 minutes.
Self-isolation for those returning to Singapore was another line of defence, as imported cases continued to rise. Of the 40 confirmed cases yesterday, 30 were imported.
Safe distancing, the ministers said, would add to the defences.
Mr Gan said: “Our healthcare professionals are working hard to take care of patients. We don’t want to add to their load, and therefore, it is important to add these measures to ensure our healthcare workers have the capacity to look after our patients.”
Mr Wong added that the range of safe-distancing measures that were being put in place were fairly stringent and far-reaching, and should lead to a change in outcome from where Singapore was today.
“We cannot continue with business as usual activities,” he said.
“With all these measures in place, what do we hope to achieve? We don’t want to see crowded venues, we don’t want to see packed event halls. We should see more people working from home, ordering takeaway to eat at home. All this means a major change in our daily routines and lives.
“We will be enforcing the rules. It will lead to some inconvenience, but we also need all Singaporeans to cooperate and take responsibility for these changes. And if we are all disciplined about this, it will give us better control and enable us to suppress and slow down the spread of the virus.”