SINGAPORE - The National Day Parade (NDP) this year will be postponed to Aug 21 after the end of the latest Covid-19 restrictions, said the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) on Thursday (July 22).
The announcement came as Singapore reverted to stricter measures under phase two (heightened alert) for a month starting on Thursday, and this is scheduled to last until Aug 18, after National Day.
A ceremonial parade will be held on Aug 9 instead to mark Singapore's 56th year since independence. It will be similar to the one held last year at the Padang, but will take place at the Marina Bay floating platform, added Mindef.
The heartland fireworks and Red Lions displays previously announced to be held on Aug 7 and 8 will be cancelled.
The NDP rehearsal previously planned for July 24 and the preview on July 31 have also been postponed, said Mindef.
The Prime Minister's Office said on Thursday night that the National Day Rally will now be held a week later on Aug 29.
To prepare for the NDP on Aug 21, rehearsals will be conducted later in smaller component groups, said Mindef, adding that their dates will not be announced so as to discourage crowds from gathering around Marina Bay.
"Since 1966, the NDP has been held every year to mark Singapore's independence. This national event brings together Singaporeans from all walks of life, as one united people to affirm our unity and nationhood," said Mindef.
"The changes this year will enable NDP 2021 to be held in safer conditions, while maintaining that cherished tradition."
Singapore tightened restrictions for a month following the emergence of a large cluster linked to Jurong Fishery Port, which has spread to more than 30 wet markets and food centres islandwide.
Among other measures during this period, dining in at eateries is not allowed, group sizes for social gatherings have been capped at two, and people are advised to minimise social interactions.
Asked by reporters whether NDP will carry on, Finance Minister and co-chairman of the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19 Lawrence Wong had said on Tuesday (July 20) that National Day was "not just any other occasion", and the intention was to continue with the parade.
But he added that Mindef was reviewing the conduct and scale of the parade, and to ensure that necessary safe management measures for any rehearsal or events leading up to the parade are in place.
The latest decision on Thursday night came after the police had earlier in the day announced road closures around the floating platform, such as in Raffles Avenue and Temasek Avenue, for Saturday's rehearsal, which is known as Combined Rehearsal 4. The release was rescinded shortly after it was sent to the media.
NDP this year is planned to be a centralised, in-person event at the float. Precautions taken include requiring all participants and spectators to be fully vaccinated.
Performers must undergo antigen rapid testing before every rehearsal - even while rehearsals take place in smaller groups than in years past - while spectators must undergo pre-event testing.
The plan was for spectators to be people who have worked on the front lines or in essential roles, or those who stepped up amid the pandemic as community volunteers, although the total number had not been announced.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, in the first official comments about this year's NDP, had said last month that part of why NDP was to be held as a live event was the need to learn to live with Covid-19 as an endemic disease.
Preparations and rehearsals for this year's parade had been under way. A combined rehearsal was held at the floating platform on July 17, and the Red Lions parachutists had made test jumps in Ghim Moh and Bishan on July 15.