SINGAPORE - Singapore residents have to stay home and go out only for essential activities like buying food, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, as the country saw a record daily spike of 120 new coronavirus cases on Sunday (April 5).
He stressed the need for every person to take the latest safe distancing measures very seriously and make individual sacrifices, adding that routines like going out to meet friends "cannot be tolerated any more".
The Government had announced on Friday that most workplaces will be shut down and dining in will not be allowed at food establishments from Tuesday (April 7) for a month, as part of a set of "circuit breaker" measures to stem the spread of Covid-19 in the community.
Said Mr Wong: "The rules are very clear. You go out only for essential activities - for work that is considered essential, to buy food, to exercise with an immediate family member... Other than that you have to stay home."
Businesses that are not offering essential services or in key economic sectors have to implement telecommuting fully or stop work altogether, he added.
"There are no two ways about this. It is straightforward," said Mr Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry taskforce on Covid-19.
He noted that there is still some confusion surrounding which businesses are allowed to stay open, and said these questions will be addressed. An estimated 75 per cent of workers will either work from home or stop working for the duration of the measures until May 4.
In a Facebook post on Sunday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the rise in local transmitted cases is one reason for the stricter measures.
"With people staying away from workplaces, students on full home-based learning, and everyone following tighter safe distancing rules, the new cases should gradually slow down, and we should get into a better position," he added.
"But for the circuit breaker to be effective, everyone has to cooperate and comply with the restrictions. Please stay home.
"If you must go out, please practise safe distancing. And remember to maintain good personal hygiene. The health of us all depends on the actions of each of us."
Of the 120 new cases announced, 116 were local cases. The number of new imported cases - four on Sunday - has steadily declined.
Asked about the morale of healthcare workers, Mr Wong said the surest way to sap their morale was for people to disregard the social distancing measures.
"They will be completely demoralised that they are working so hard and yet there are groups out there still gathering - completely undermining all that we are doing to overcome the virus," he said.
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong and the Ministry of Health's (MOH) director of medical services Associate Professor Kenneth Mak said Singapore will continue with its efforts in contact tracing as the number of cases go up exponentially.
The police and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) have been roped in to help the MOH contact tracing team.
Prof Mak said it is important to continue doing so, as the authorities still believe that isolating close contacts will help prevent further spread of Covid-19 in the community.
Mr Gan, who co-chairs the task force, also confirmed that the Singapore Expo is being re-purposed as the second community isolation facility for recovering coronavirus patients.
The first such facility is the D'Resort NTUC in Pasir Ris, which houses recovering cases until they are well and helps to free up capacity at hospitals.
On what Singapore's stricter measures signal to other countries about the severity of the coronavirus, Mr Wong said the message is that there is no scope for complacency.
"Basically, all of us have to act on the basis that anyone we meet may be infected with the virus because it could be asymptomatic, mild, and each one of us may very well be responsible for spawning more clusters down the road.
"This needs to be repeated again and again... not just here, but all over the world."
Asked whether Singapore has sufficient capacity for returning travellers serving stay-home notices, Mr Wong said more people will be sent to dedicated facilities as the Government builds up capacity in this area.
Meanwhile, it will continue with enforcement efforts to make sure those staying at home comply with the rules, he added.
Mr Gan urged Singapore residents to not wait till the circuit breaker measures kick in on Tuesday to stay home and avoid meeting people.
"Maximum distancing should start now," he said.