In a bid to help contain the spread of COVID-19, the Ministry of Health has decided to implement stricter safe distancing measures in Singapore, “especially for vulnerable segments of the population”.
“Even as we tighten our borders and isolate all imported cases, we must also redouble our efforts within Singapore to prevent further spread of the virus,” said a statement by MOH.
The ministry said that based on their study of the pattern of transmission amongst the locally transmitted cases, it was found that many were infected during events and social gatherings, and interactions between colleagues at workplaces.
In view of this, the Multi-Ministry Taskforce has decided to impose further measures to limit close contact and large gatherings.
Safe distancing measures for the general population
Events and gatherings
Between now and 30 June 2020, all events and gatherings with 250 or more participants in attendance at any one time are to be suspended. This is an expansion of the previous requirement for ticketed cultural, sports and entertainment events to be limited to fewer than 250 participants.
For events and gatherings with fewer than 250 participants, organisers and event venue operators will be required to implement the necessary precautionary measures to ensure separation of at least a metre between participants. These measures include spaced seating at events, and reducing mingling of participants such as during meal times.
Events and gatherings have to also comply with the existing guidance, including:
a. Improving ventilation and advising participants to reduce contact with others;
b. Putting in place temperature and health screening measures, and turning away persons who are unwell; and
c. Putting in place measures to facilitate contact tracing if needed, such as obtaining contact details of participants.
Operators of venues which are accessible to the public are to implement precautionary measures to ensure separation of at least a metre between patrons. For example:
a. Queues (e.g. outside restaurants, at retail stores) should be kept fast-moving. This could be done by ensuring that all checkout counters are open, and encouraging self-checkout to minimise contact with counter staff. Operators are also encouraged to demarcate queues to ensure patrons queue at least a metre apart from one another;
b. Food and beverage venues should maintain a distance of at least one metre between tables, and between seats. Where seats are fixed, including our hawker centres, operators should ensure alternate seats are marked out. Individuals and family members who wish to seat together should continue to do so, but there should be a safe distance maintained between different groups; and
c. Entertainment venues and attractions (e.g. cinemas/theatres, theme parks, casinos, museums and galleries) should adopt measures appropriate to their venue to ensure separation of at least a metre amongst patrons. This could include reducing operating capacity to provide more spacing, installing floor markers at queuing areas, and adopting chequerboard or alternate seating.
Employers are strongly advised to put in place measures to reduce close physical interactions amongst employees. All employers should facilitate telecommuting for their employees to work from home. Tele-conferencing should also be used in place of physical meetings wherever possible.
For employees undertaking job roles or functions where telecommuting is not feasible, employers should take the following precautions:
a. Staggered working hours: Minimally three one-hourly blocks and no more than 50 percent of total employees reporting to work within each one-hour block. Where possible, reporting and ending times should not coincide with peak-hour travel, especially if employees require the use of public transport.
b. Reduce duration and proximity of physical interactions: Employers should provide for physical spacing (of at least one metre apart) between workstations. If there is a need for physical meetings, the number of attendees should be limited and the duration shortened. Seats in meeting rooms should also be spaced at least a metre apart.
c. Defer non-critical events and scale down critical work events: For critical work events that cannot be deferred, employers must limit these to no more than 250 participants at any point in time and put in place measures to ensure separation of at least a metre between participants. These include meals and mingling during the event.
Additional safe distancing measures for seniors
Suspension of senior-centric activities
Since 11 March, all senior-centric activities at community clubs, residents’ committees, Senior Activity Centres, Active Ageing Hubs, CREST Centres, Health Promotion Board and ActiveSG sport centres have been suspended for two weeks. National Silver Academy (NSA) courses and volunteer programmes administered by the Council for Third Age have also been suspended for the same period.
The suspension of the above activities will be extended for another 14 days, until 7 April. In addition, all organisers of activities that involve physical interactions amongst seniors are to suspend such activities from 22 March to 7 April. These include senior-centric courses, activities and interest groups, as well as events, performances, and other gatherings targeted at seniors.
The MOH has also advised seniors to avoid crowded places as far as possible, and be vigilant in maintaining good personal hygiene.
“We need all Singaporeans to play their part in the fight against COVID-19. Singaporeans should therefore uphold these safe distancing principles for their own private get-togethers, even if these are being carried out in smaller groups,” said MOH.