Some time yet before dining in, religious services can resume

Restaurants across the island, like this KFC outlet at Tampines Mall, have stopped their dine-in services since the circuit breaker measures were introduced early last month.
Restaurants across the island, like this KFC outlet at Tampines Mall, have stopped their dine-in services since the circuit breaker measures were introduced early last month.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Entertainment outlets and activities that attract crowds or involve people in close contact with one another are among the sectors that will have to wait a longer time before they can reopen after circuit breaker measures are lifted.

Dining in at food and beverage outlets, as well as religious gatherings and services, may also take a while to resume, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said yesterday.

"I understand many people are looking forward to (eating out) with their family members and friends, but we will have to assess the risk and consider this very carefully, considering that this particular activity is a known vector for transmission," he said in a ministerial statement in Parliament.

On entertainment outlets and activities involving crowds or close contact, he said: "I do not think we can restart these activities any time soon."

Mr Wong also noted that all communities have experienced or will be experiencing their religious observances and holidays with major adjustments, including Qing Ming and Easter last month, and Vesak Day and Hari Raya this month.

"We know it has not been easy and we really appreciate everyone's understanding of the adjustments that have to be made to keep ourselves and our families safe during this period," he said.

After the circuit breaker ends, all firms will need to change their work culture and practices, and life cannot return to status quo ante, he added.

Reopening of workplaces will be done in a calibrated manner, starting with industries that are critical to the economy and to local employment, and which keep Singapore connected to the world and global supply chains.

The Ministry of Manpower and the Ministry of Trade and Industry are engaging industry associations, business chambers and firms to help them adapt to these new realities, he said. For instance, telecommuting will have to be a default option extended to all staff, he said.

 
 
 
 

Strict safe management practices have to be implemented for those who cannot do so, such as split-team arrangements with no cross-deployment of staff, staggered working and lunch break hours, and higher hygiene standards.

All of these safeguards must be in place before more workplaces can reopen, he said, noting that staff should not gather in groups at any time within the workplace, be it in the pantry or staff canteen.

Mr Wong added that the Government will also harness technology for faster contact tracing when the measures are eased, on top of ramping up testing efforts.

Two technological platforms have been developed for contact tracing - the national digital check-in system SafeEntry, and TraceTogether, which logs smartphone users' interactions by exchanging Bluetooth radio signals between nearby phones.

The use of SafeEntry will be mandatory for all business premises from May 12, and the TraceTogether team is now working with Apple and Google to make the app more effective, especially on phones using Apple's iOS system.

On whether the Government will mandate the use of the TraceTogether app or at least offer it on an opt-out basis, Mr Wong said the Government's first priority is to enhance the app before looking at how to increase the take-up rate.

Currently, about 1.1 million people - or less than one-fifth of the population - have downloaded the app.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 05, 2020, with the headline 'Some time yet before dining in, religious services can resume'. Subscribe