Be responsible and use common sense as S'pore lives with Covid-19: Ong Ye Kung

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung answered questions on reopening plans during interviews with Kiss92 FM and One FM 91.3. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - It is important for Singaporeans to be responsible and use common sense as Singapore lives with the Covid-19 virus, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung on Wednesday (March 30).

"These days, rules are just rules," he said in an interview with radio station One FM 91.3. "You have to obey the rules. But you have to exercise a lot of self-responsibility and understand (the need to) mask up when you're indoors - it's because ventilation is not as good."

Responding to radio host Glenn Ong who said that it is important for the public to exercise common sense, the minister said: "So that’s why I say, the main thing to remember is how we got here, which is everyone exercising a lot of common sense and taking self-responsibility. Going forward, (it) is going to be the same."

Masks are currently compulsory in indoor spaces such as malls, lifts, public transport and hawker centres. They are optional outdoors, including in sheltered areas such as void decks and bus stops.

"Even if you're alone in the lift, it's not wrong to leave your mask on. Of course, if the guy before you sneezed..." Mr Ong said, drawing laughter from his hosts.

This logic also applies to settings such as children's playgrounds, he added. If parents find that a playground is too crowded for their comfort, they can simply take their children somewhere else.

"Or if you feel that your child can play with a mask on and you're more comfortable (with that), then do so," Mr Ong said.

The minister spoke to two SPH Media Trust radio stations - Kiss92 FM and One FM 91.3 - in separate interviews on Wednesday morning, where he answered questions on Singapore's reopening plans.

These included whether it remains necessary for people to use TraceTogether and SafeEntry, and if Singapore will consider removing more Covid-19 restrictions.

The requirement to check-in at malls and other venues is mainly about verifying a person's vaccination status, Mr Ong said. This protects unvaccinated people and prevents Singapore's healthcare system from becoming overloaded.

"But there may come a day when cases are low, hospitals are in good shape, and we may say: 'OK we don't need that anymore - and it's your choice now. But please be careful. (If) you are not vaccinated, please protect yourself'," he added.

He reiterated that Singapore will not have a "Freedom Day" on which all restrictions are lifted at once. Rather, the country's way is to do things methodically and open up in a step-by-step manner, he said.

The multi-ministry task force on Covid-19 has decided to ease restrictions because the society is now more resilient, Mr Ong said.

"It's not as if the virus becomes less dangerous overnight. It's still a nasty virus, but what has changed is that we have become stronger. We have become stronger as a society, and that's because of vaccination, because of the fact that we went through a big wave (of infection)."

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He noted that Covid-19 cases will go up in the coming weeks and that the Government will consider further easing of rules once the next hump is over.

But part of living with Covid-19 as an endemic disease means accepting that it is here to stay, similar to influenza, he observed. "We will learn how to live with it, manage the risks and live with this force of nature."

The minister also outlined the Government's thinking behind the decision to double the permitted size of gatherings from five to 10 people, instead of the previous cap of eight people.

"We did a calculation, and whether it is eight or 10, it would not make a huge difference in terms of the pressure on hospitals," he said.

Mr Ong was also asked light-hearted questions, including which Star Wars character he would want to be.

"I don't know which character I want to be, but I like Darth Vader," Mr Ong replied. "I know he's the villain, but he is great, right? He's dark, he's Jedi, he's Sith, he's the father."

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