More people allowed to return to workplace from Sept 28 as S'pore's Covid-19 community cases remain low

The Manpower Ministry has updated its requirements for safe management measures at the workplace, which will take effect from next Monday. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - Safe distancing rules will be eased and more activities allowed to resume in the coming weeks as the number of Covid-19 cases in the community has remained low, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong on Wednesday (Sept 23).

More employees will be allowed to return to the workplace, although safe management measures must be in place and employers are encouraged to implement measures such as flexible working hours and staggered reporting times.

Employers must ensure that such employees continue to work from home for at least half their working time, and no more than half of such employees are at the workplace at any point in time.

Essential business travel will also be permitted for senior executives with extensive regional or international responsibilities through a new pilot scheme.

Under the trial, a limited number of passes will be given out through Singapore's economic agencies and those who travel will have to abide by a "strict controlled itinerary". When they return, the traveller will be given the option of doing a Covid-19 test instead of serving a stay-home notice, and self-isolate until test results are out.

Events within the workplace, such as seminars, corporate retreats and annual general meetings will also be allowed to resume, as long as safe distancing measures are in place. However, work-related events at external venues remain prohibited for now.

The Manpower Ministry has updated its requirements for safe management measures at the workplace, which will take effect from next Monday (Sept 28). This is the most significant easing of restrictions in workplaces since the circuit breaker was imposed on April 7.

Mr Gan also announced the easing of safe-distancing measures for religious services, marriage solemnisations, and wedding receptions.

From Oct 3, all religious organisations will be allowed to conduct congregational and other worship services for up to 100 persons, as long as safe distancing measures are in place.

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Up to 100 unique guests - including the wedding couple, but excluding vendors and service providers - will also be allowed for wedding receptions. They should be split up into groups not larger than 50, or attend the wedding at separate time slots. There should be at least 30 minutes between slots for cleaning and disinfection of the event space.

The cap for marriage solemnisations will also be increased to 100 persons split across multiple zones of up to 50 people each. However, venue operators may impose a lower cap if they are unable to comply with the zoning or staggered timing requirements.

Voluntary coronavirus testing of taxi and private-hire car drivers has also started, with more than 10,000 tested so far, Mr Gan said. Around 750 stallholders and food delivery personnel have also been tested. No positive cases were reported in these groups, he added.

"The results of the community testing operations indicate very low prevalence rates in the community," said the Ministry of Health (MOH) in a statement. "It is also an indicator that our safe management measures are helping keep our community safe as we gradually resume our daily activities."

MOH added that current guidelines allow children aged 12 years and below to use a face shield in place of a mask. However, this is not fully reflected in the law.

It will therefore be adjusting the legal cut-off age for children to wear masks to six years and above, up from the current two and above.

This is in line with recently-issued advice from the World Health Organisation and United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund that young children below the age of six may not have the coordination necessary for the proper use of masks.

Education Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the task force with Mr Gan, added that the Government is already working on a road map for the third and final phase of Singapore's reopening.

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