Nightlife pilot programmes will be re-evaluated when Covid-19 situation stabilises: Lawrence Wong

The Government could consider reinstating pilot programmes for the industry once the situation has stabilised. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - While nightlife establishments may not be able to resume their core business any time soon, the Government could consider reinstating pilot programmes for the industry once the situation has stabilised.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday (May 28) to announce an $800 million package to support businesses and workers affected by Covid-19 restrictions, Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong noted the nightlife industry has been affected for "quite some time".

Such businesses have already been provided support to either pivot to food and beverage or adjacent industries permitted under the guidelines, or exit altogether.

"We recognise that some of the (nightlife) players do want to stay on, and when the situation permits, they would like to be able to continue with their operations, with new safeguards and measures in place," he said.

"We are not ruling that out, but obviously that's not going to be possible now or in the near term... But at some stage, when the infection situation has stabilised again, we might and we will consider whether there is scope for some pilots to continue."

Mr Wong was referring to a small-scale nightlife pilot programme announced in November last year. It was set up to explore the safe reopening of the nightlife industry.

Facilitated by the Singapore Nightlife Business Association (SNBA), the programme would allow a limited number of nightlife outlets - including bars, pubs, nightclubs, discotheques and karaoke establishments - to reopen with stringent safe management measures.

However, plans to reopen nightclubs and karaoke outlets were deferred in January this year, following a spike in community Covid-19 cases.

Recognising that restrictions for nightlife might be around "even after this period of heightened alert", Mr Wong said the resumption of these pilot programmes would have to take into consideration new factors.

"We might consider whether there is scope eventually for some of these pilots to resume, and what kinds of safeguards and new protocols might be put in place to ensure that some of these segments or these activities can resume safely," he said.

"Some of the additional safeguards would include new measures that we have, for example, new testing capabilities... as well as the fact that more and more people will get vaccinated over time."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.