Singapore can go ahead with phase three of its reopening only if three key conditions are met, Education Minister Lawrence Wong said yesterday.
"There may be a chance we can do it before the end of the year. If not, we will roll over to January or some time early next year," he said.
"It's more important that we do it right than we rush into phase three and end up with bad consequences down the road."
Mr Wong was speaking at a press conference by the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19.
Singaporeans have been awaiting the further easing of restrictions as it has been almost five months since the country moved into phase two of its progressive reopening, following an eight-week circuit breaker period earlier this year.
Also, the task force had, at an Oct 20 press conference, raised the possibility of Singapore moving into phase three before the end of this year should it be able to meet various conditions.
But yesterday, Mr Wong, who co-chairs the task force, stressed that this would be possible only if everyone does his part, because with more events allowed to take place, the risk of a swell in coronavirus cases is higher.
"We must be prepared to expect the number of community cases to go up perhaps to the low teens, maybe even to the 20s or upwards to the 30s," he added.
"We have to be mentally prepared for that and be ready to ensure that even if the local cases in the community were to rise, they do not form large clusters that are out of control," he said as he elaborated on the three key conditions that need to be fulfilled.
First, the TraceTogether programme must have a participation rate of about 70 per cent, up from the current rate of less than 50 per cent.
The programme plays a key role in contact tracing efforts which, in themselves, are important for Singapore to reopen safely.
TraceTogether tokens are being distributed islandwide, but there is no need to collect a token, Mr Wong pointed out as he urged people to download the TraceTogether app on their smartphones.
"The faster you download the app, the faster we get to a higher participation rate, the better the stars can be aligned. So consider downloading the app if you haven't."
Second, there must be an overall sense of compliance with safe management measures.
"We do need to see Singaporeans taking today's measures seriously, because if people are not even responsible enough to uphold (them), then going for further relaxation is going to be very risky."
The authorities will assess this condition through safe distancing ambassadors, who will continue to observe the situation on the ground at places such as restaurants and parks, he said.
Finally, Singapore's testing capabilities must be sufficient, an aspect in which the country is "proceeding well", he said.
"We do have the testing capabilities in place, so we just need the contact tracing - TraceTogether - to be up. We need compliance with safe management measures to also be up there, and then with all three indicators showing the green light, we would be in a position to enter phase three.
"Exactly when that happens, we keep an open mind, we will watch over it very carefully," he said.