Coronavirus pandemic

Coronavirus: Dining in, meeting friends allowed in phase two, but capped at groups of 5

Red tape pasted on the floor as part of safe distancing measures at Fruit Paradise cafe at AMK Hub. The new regulations will mean that if a household of more than five people wants to dine in at an eatery, they will have to sit at separate tables.
Red tape pasted on the floor as part of safe distancing measures at Fruit Paradise cafe at AMK Hub. The new regulations will mean that if a household of more than five people wants to dine in at an eatery, they will have to sit at separate tables. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

When phase two of the post-circuit breaker measures kicks in, people will once again be allowed to dine in at food and beverage outlets, meet friends and visit family members.

But they will be allowed to do so in groups of only five or fewer, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong at a virtual press conference yesterday.

Dining in at eateries and meeting people outside one's household have generally been prohibited since April 7, the first day of circuit breaker measures aimed at stemming the spread of Covid-19 here.

In the lead-up to the circuit breaker, people were allowed to gather in groups of only 10 or fewer, as part of social distancing measures.

But Mr Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force dealing with the pandemic, said: "We are not going back to pre-circuit breaker (regulations) precisely, in fact, we are going to be a little bit tighter."

The new regulations will mean that if a household of more than five people wants to dine in at an eatery, they will have to sit at separate tables, said Mr Wong.

Tables at these establishments will also have to be placed 1m apart from one another.

Those who wish to visit their relatives can do so in a group of only five or fewer but, in a loosening of measures from phase one, visitors can be from different households.

When asked how the task force had decided on a group size of five, Mr Wong said: "There is really no magic number. You can set two, you can set five, you can set eight, 10, and if you look around the world, you will find different countries setting different numbers.

"We think that five is a reasonable balance, looking at the assessment of risks and the assessment of the situation that we are in today."

He added that if the authorities were to permit groups of up to 10, as was the case pre-circuit breaker, it could potentially lead to the formation of larger clusters.

"Because there are 10 people, each person may have another 10 contacts, then all that multiplies."

On the other hand, limiting social gatherings or dining in to just two people might be "a little bit too tight" as it may prevent many families from gathering.

"So the balance we struck was about five," said Mr Wong.

He added that the number was not static.

"Of course, as we progress along phase two... as we gain confidence that the virus is under control, the infection rate remains stable, then over time, that number can increase to a larger number. But we will start with five as the rule."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 29, 2020, with the headline Coronavirus: Dining in, meeting friends allowed in phase two, but capped at groups of 5. Subscribe