More people return to the office, fewer temperature checks as S’pore further eases Covid-19 curbs

Commuters during peak hour on Aug 19, 2021. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN
Companies are allowed to bring more staff back to the office with the easing of Covid-19 restrictions in Singapore.

Up to 50 per cent of employees are allowed back to the office. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
Commuters in a train during peak hour on Aug 19, 2021. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
Visitors to Junction 8 in Bishan did not have to undergo temperature checks on Aug 19, 2021. ST PHOTO: WONG YANG
Visitors to the Square 2 mall in Novena did not have to undergo temperature checks on Aug 19, 2021. ST PHOTO: WONG YANG
Patrons checking in at the Empress Road Market and Food Centre, where temperature screening is no longer conducted, on Aug 19, 2021. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
People checking in at the Coronation Shopping Plaza on Aug 19, 2021. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - Lawyer Crystal Tan usually gets a seat when she boards the train on the North-South Line to the city at 8.30am, but on Thursday (Aug 19), most of the seats were taken.

Ms Tan, 32, who boarded at the Sembawang station and alighted at Raffles Place, said: "There was quite a significant number of people on the train today. Usually, there will be a lot of seats available, but today most of the seats were filled up."

On Thursday, companies were allowed to have more staff back at the office with the easing of Covid-19 restrictions in Singapore.

Up to 50 per cent of employees are now allowed back to the office. This has not been the case since May 8, when firms switched largely to getting people to work from home in line with safe management measures.

Mr Ramadass Deenathayalu, 51, who works at Raffles Place, said his company lets the employees decide if they want to come back to the office, but he enjoys working from the office.

"When we work at home, we unknowingly work longer hours. It's not healthy and it's bad for psychological health. We are away from social connections when we work from home. It's better to go out and work with people," said the manager in the software industry.

"I'm looking forward to have more human connections and interactions since more people are allowed to go back to office now."

Across the island, people were walking into malls and buildings without temperature screening - a requirement that was lifted on Thursday.

But some places ST visited were still conducting such checks, saying they would phase it out in the days to come.

At Ang Mo Kio Hub, Velocity @ Novena Square, Square 2 and Junction 8, shoppers did not need to take their temperatures, with TraceTogether check-ins sufficient to allow entry.

But 13 of the 24 eateries ST visited in the four malls were still conducting temperature screening.

Ms Janet Ong, 52, had her temperature screened before she could have breakfast at Toast Box in Ang Mo Kio Hub on Thursday morning.

She said it was good for eateries to screen temperatures as vaccinated individuals could still be infected.

Temperature checks were still being done at the Toast Box outlet in Ang Mo Kio Hub on the morning of Aug 19, 2021. ST PHOTO: WONG YANG
A customer has his temperature checked at a McDonald's outlet at Ang Mo Kio Hub on Aug 19, 2021. ST PHOTO: WONG YANG

"I take my children to dine out too and I want to make sure they are all safe from the virus," said the sales assistant.

Mr Ng Poh Hsien, 24, who works as a temperature screener at Junction 8, said the screening machines at the mall were removed on Wednesday night during his shift.

He said: "It should be quite safe because now a lot of people are vaccinated."

A spokesman for Frasers Property Retail previously said all 14 malls it manages will stop conducting temperature screening for visitors from Aug 19, but staff will continue to be deployed to facilitate contact tracing.

ST understands that screeners at the 17 malls managed by Far East Organization will also be retained to ensure shoppers, employees and tenants comply with TraceTogether check-ins.

At Yio Chu Kang Sport Hall and the nearby ActiveSG gym, temperature checks remained in place.

A part-time ActiveSG staff member, who declined to be named, said staff members were informed that temperature checks would continue for now, but that they would be phased out in time to come.

Temperature checks were still being conducted at the Yio Chu Kang ActiveSG Gym on Aug 19, 2021. ST PHOTO: WONG YANG

Engineer Fong Chee Chun, 50, who was at the gym, said: "It's not very difficult to take our temperature and doesn't take up much time since it's just a machine.

"I'm used to it already. It also feels safer to check everyone before they enter because we share the equipment," Mr Fong said.

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Over at the hospitals, visits to wards were allowed to resume on Thursday, but with vaccination-differentiated measures in place to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission.

Visitors who are fully vaccinated, or have recovered from Covid-19 with a valid pre-event test exemption notice, can enter wards without a pre-visit Covid-19 test.

Unvaccinated visitors have to show a negative Covid-19 test result to enter hospital wards. This can be an antigen rapid test (ART) or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test done within the last 24 hours.

Hospitals continue to enforce strict rules such as limiting visitor numbers and duration, as well as ensuring mask-wearing and safe distancing.

A spokesman for the National University Health System (NUHS) said that visitor management policy and guidelines have been updated in line with the Ministry of Health's guidelines.

This is to protect patients, accompanying persons and caregivers, and to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission in hospitals, he said.

NUHS oversees the National University Hospital, Ng Teng Fong General Hospital, Jurong Community Hospital and Alexandra Hospital.

"Hospital personnel are available to support visitors who require advice or assistance. We will also assist unvaccinated visitors with ART testing in exceptional and time-sensitive situations," said the spokesman.

Meanwhile, local attractions such as the Singapore Zoo, Jurong Bird Park, River Safari and Night Safari have also made adjustments to comply with the latest guidelines.

Wildlife Reserves Singapore, which manages the four parks, said in a post on its website that group sizes are capped at five, with unvaccinated persons encouraged to stay in groups of up to two.

Shows at its parks will admit up to 50 guests, with a maximum of five people seated together, including infants, it added.

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