Masks optional but vaccination rule stays for F&B outlets, nightspots, large events

Only fully vaccinated individuals will be able to have meals in F&B establishments such as restaurants, coffee shops and hawker centres. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - While mask-wearing rules will be eased from Aug 29, vaccination-differentiated safe management measures (VDS) will remain for food and beverage (F&B) establishments, large events and nightlife venues.

This means that only fully vaccinated individuals will be able to have meals in  restaurants, coffee shops and hawker centres; attend events with more than 500 participants at any one time; or party at nightlife outlets.

From Aug 29, mask-wearing will become optional in most indoor settings, except in healthcare facilities and on public transport.

Speaking at a Covid-19 multi-ministry task force press conference on Wednesday (Aug 24), Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong said that F&B outlets no longer check for vaccination status because the responsibility is placed on the individual, and random spot checks are conducted by the authorities.

"For now, we are retaining this approach... there is no change to this because vaccinations are still the best way to protect ourselves against severe disease from Covid-19," said Mr Wong.

"But we are reviewing our vaccination policy to transit to a system where we keep our vaccinations up to date."

He added that while the current policy stipulates an individual would need to get his first booster shot no later than 270 days after the primary series, the time period for the second booster has not yet been defined.

"For that matter, there may well be future boosters, so we need a more enduring system to define (and) to talk about vaccinations that are up to date, on an ongoing basis," said Mr Wong.

As for mask-wearing in crowded settings such as concerts, Mr Wong said the decision would be up to the organiser or venue operator.

"Event organisers, venue operators may well decide on a case-by-case basis, depending on the settings (and) depending on the event, that they would still continue with mask as a requirement," he said.

Concert organisers and F&B and nightife businesses welcomed the easing of rules.

“It is really good news... quite an exciting turn of events as concerts and shows return,” said co-founder of live music promoter LAMC Productions, Ms Lauretta Alabons.

“We will have to inform all upcoming artistes and acts about this, and from now on, communicate to attendees at the point of sale that they do not have to mask up,” said Ms Alabons. The company has several comedy shows and concerts in the pipeline. 

As VDS checks are conducted at show venues anyway, she said it would be business as usual on that front. 

It was a sentiment mirrored by Mr Nasen Thiagarajan, president of the Singapore Nightlife Business Association, which represents around 300 nightlife businesses. 

Mr Thiagarajan said that keeping VDS checks will not affect businesses financially, adding: “Keeping VDS requirements is good, as the high vaccination rates have helped Singapore ride through the last Covid-19 wave.”

“Allowing optional masks indoors will help guests and staff alike make their own choices, and businesses will not have to keep reminding customers and staff to mask up,” he said. 

A large crowd waiting to enter nightclub Marquee last month. Only fully vaccinated individuals will be able to party at nightlife outlets. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

The Restaurant Association of Singapore, which represents more than 800 brands with over 5,000 restaurants, also called for businesses to continue upholding clean and safe practices such as proper handwashing and regular sanitising of high-touch surfaces for employees and customers alike.

The VDS measures will also be reviewed and updated, said the Ministry of Health in a press release.

On the safe management measures, the ministry said: "We have now retired most of them in community settings as we journey further towards a new normal of living with Covid-19.

"However, there may be new variants that emerge, and should there be the threat of a new wave or a dangerous new variant, we may need to reintroduce safe management measures or step up measures quickly to keep our community safe."

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