Working from home will continue to be default in phase 2 to reduce Covid-19 transmission: Lawrence Wong

Telecommuting is important for preventing the spread of the respiratory disease, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Working from home is to continue to be the default for employees even as Singapore further reopens its economy from Friday (June 19), said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong on Monday.

Telecommuting is important for preventing the spread of Covid-19, he added at a virtual press conference announcing details of the move into phase two.

"We would still ask all employers to make work from home or telecommuting a default setting," he said. "So even if more businesses are allowed to reopen, employers should continue to ensure that employees who can work from home continue to work from home," said Mr Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force tackling the respiratory disease.

Singapore is now in its third week of phase one of the reopening of the economy, after the circuit breaker ended on June 1. But most activities are still not allowed in this period.

However, phase two, which starts on Friday, will see the resumption of most activities, including dining in at food and beverage outlets.

Mr Wong said it is in the interest of businesses to continue letting their employees work from home. This will help avoid having to quarantine many members of their workforce should an employee be infected by the coronavirus.

The entire workplace may have to be shut down as well, he added.

But companies with split-team arrangements in place, with one team working from home, may not have to close since not everyone would have been exposed to the infected person.

"I think it's in the interest of all businesses (to allow telecommuting). While we allow them to reopen in phase two, they should take the safe management practices very seriously and continue to have employees work from home to the maximum extent."

This will also help reduce the number of commuters who have to travel to their workplace by public transport, especially during peak periods, he said.

Mr Wong said the Government recognises that maintaining a 1m distance from another person on public transport is not easy. But other measures have been implemented to continue safeguarding commuters.

This includes the mandatory wearing of masks, and urging commuters not to talk to one another or on the phone during the journey. Public transport operators have also been asked to step up their cleaning regimes, he added.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said at the press conference that precautionary measures should be viewed as a package instead of being evaluated individually.

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He said: "We have to bear in mind that even as we open up in phase two, we need to further strengthen individual responsibility and discipline, so that we can keep the number of cases low despite the increase in interactions between individuals."

For example, it may not be possible to wear a mask in a restaurant or hawker centres during meals with friends.

"But it doesn't mean that we, therefore, don't have to wear masks anywhere else. All the more we need to strengthen the preventive measures elsewhere, so that overall, we keep the number of cases low," he added.

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