Coronavirus: Stay at home, go out only for essentials and wear a reusable mask around crowds

Additional safe-distancing measures have been put in place to protect Singaporeans, given the growing number of unlinked local cases. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Singapore residents should stay at home, going out only for essential services and wearing a reusable mask if they cannot avoid close contact with crowds.

Such reusable masks will be distributed to all Singapore residents from Sunday (April 5), with priority queues for seniors.

These additional safe-distancing measures - described as a "major circuit breaker" by the multi-ministerial task force tackling the coronavirus outbreak - have been put in place to protect Singaporeans, given the growing number of unlinked local cases.

A total of 1,114 infections have been reported to date, with five deaths. There were 65 new cases as of Friday, with 25 of the 473 hospitalised cases in intensive care.

Said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong: "Our original thought was that we could perhaps take some time to see if the measures implemented since last Friday were having an effect in the slowing down of the virus.

"But we looked at the situation on a daily basis and decided that we couldn't afford to wait any further because there are very worrying trends."

At present, the number of unlinked local cases make up nearly half of the total number of local cases. This suggests that there are undetected cases in the community, with more expected to emerge, said Mr Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministerial task force.

Although hospitals can cope with the cases now, the Government is putting in place this "major circuit-breaker" to try and break the chain of transmission and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed, he added.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, the task force co-chair, said: "The key advice for Singaporeans is to stay home. Go out only for essential services, and if you need to go out, avoid close contact with crowds or with people. If it is not possible to avoid close contact, wearing a reusable mask will be helpful."

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung and Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee also spoke at the press conference, along with Ministry of Health director of medical services Kenneth Mak.

Mr Wong flagged groups of people who ignore guidelines on safe distancing as well as employers who insist that their staff must work in the office even though telecommuting is possible.

"All these behaviours and habits are really counter-productive because we must assume that the virus is circulating within our own population... Each and every interaction with others may well be the link that causes the virus to spread and causes a new infection cluster," he said.

The press conference followed a national address by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, during which he outlined even more stringent measures to curb rising the rising Covid-19 numbers.

From next Tuesday to May 4, all business, social activities, or other activities that cannot be conducted through telecommuting from home will be suspended. Only essential services and their supply chains, as well as companies that form a part of the global supply chain, will be exempted.

Retail outlets that provide items and services necessary to support the daily living needs of the population will remain open. These include hawker centres, wet markets, supermarkets and food establishments. However, people will not be allowed to dine in.

All schools and institutes of higher learning will also shift to full home-based learning a day later, next Wednesday, while pre-school and student care centres will suspend services.

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The Government will announce added support for households and businesses next week, on top of what was announced during the Budget and Supplementary Budget.

Singapore has been ramping up measures gradually to contain the Covid-19 outbreak, since the first confirmed case was announced here on Jan 23.

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