Coronavirus: More businesses allowed to resume on June 2 but most people to continue working from home

Hairdressers and barbers can offer all hairdressing services from June 2, 2020. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - More businesses will be allowed to resume operations in a phased manner from June 2 as the country gradually eases restrictions imposed to contain the Covid-19 outbreak.

For a start, businesses that operate in settings with lower transmission risks may resume activities, said Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing on Tuesday (May 19). They include manufacturing and production facilities in the semiconductor, medical technology and aerospace sectors, as well as wholesale trade and finance companies.

Retail shops and dining in are still not allowed.

But some limited consumer services can resume from June 2. For instance, hairdressers and barbers can offer all hairdressing services. Motor vehicle servicing, air-con servicing and basic pet services are also on the list, among others.

School bookshops and retail shops selling school uniforms can also resume business in order to support the reopening of schools. All other retail outlets must remain closed until further notice apart from those that have already been given approval to operate.

These businesses must ensure that health and safety measures are in place, such as staggered work hours and safe distancing.

About a third of the workers in Singapore are thus expected to resume work on-site from June 2, while the rest continue to work from home, said Mr Chan.

"This will allow more than three-quarters of our economy to resume their normal operations," he added.

He emphasised that workers' health and well-being were prioritised in the ministry's decision to let some industries reopen.

Other factors that went into the decision include the criticality of the sectors as well as the interactions that companies have with the public, he added.

"We will progressively first resume those activities that have a lower risk setting in a controlled environment," Mr Chan said.

These businesses will be given a class exemption to reopen but they must submit information on workers required on site via the GoBusiness portal within two weeks after they resumed operations.

Mr Chan said: "We really need the companies and the workers to work together and take joint responsibility (because) we want a progressive resumption of work. We will not want a situation whereby we start and stop, moving back and forth, between the different settings.

"If there is an outbreak in a particular company, (then) we will have no choice but to shut down either that operation or that part of the operation."

Staggered work hours, a ban on interactions among workers from different teams and ensuring a requisite level of hygiene and cleanliness are among other measures that firms must take.

All other retail outlets have to remain closed until further notice, apart from those that have already been given approval to operate.

But even those businesses that have yet to get the green light to open on June 2 should still "actively prepare for subsequent resumption", Mr Chan said.

These mainly refer to retail and food and beverage outlets with dine-in services; and the social entertainment sector.

For example, additional measures may be required at retail outlets with a high footfall or the F&B sector before they can reopen again, he said.

A task force, with Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat as an advisor, has been convened to study how such outlets can resume work safely, Mr Chan added.

Sectors like social entertainment should also think about a new business model, given that their activities before Covid-19 are unlikely to resume, he pointed out.

"We have been very encouraged that over the last one, two months. We have seen a lot of new initiatives, whereby many companies and businesses adopted the digital technologies to not only retain their businesses but also to expand their market share," he added.

Strict checks will be conducted to make sure that businesses follow safe distancing and sector-specific measures, and those that do not provide a safe workplace for workers will have their operations suspended until they can meet the requirements, said the Ministry of Trade of Industry in an advisory issued on Tuesday.

The ministry noted that "scheduled resumption of business activities from June 2 is ultimately dependent on the health situation".

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"Should community transmission rise, the (ministry) will re-evaluate the timeline and the businesses that can resume operations," it added.

The Government will work closely with companies and trade associations and chambers of commerce to prepare and implement the measures before they resume operations, the ministry said.

"Businesses should continue to act in a responsible manner, and not plan or organise events that could draw large numbers of employees or customers, such as 'welcome back' sales and parties," said the ministry.

Firms that are unsure whether they can open next month should check this website.

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