SINGAPORE - There will be an easing off on mandatory mask-wearing outdoors from next Tuesday (March 29), as Singapore moves towards a new phase of living with Covid-19.
This was among a number of key changes to measures implemented in the fight against the pandemic that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19 announced on Thursday.
They include larger group sizes and the lifting of most restrictions for fully-vaccinated visitors entering Singapore.
The changes are:
1. Group sizes to double to 10 people
Gatherings will be doubled from the current five persons to 10 people for mask-off activities.
The maximum number of unique visitors per household will also be adjusted from five people at any one time, to 10 at any one time.
2. Optional mask-wearing outdoors
Wearing masks outdoors, although encouraged, will be optional. But indoors, masks will still be mandatory.
This is because the risk of outdoor transmission is significantly lower, PM Lee said.
Safe distancing requirements will still be maintained in mask-off settings to minimise transmission, which means groups must maintain the 1m distance.
Indoor places refer to all buildings or places with clearly defined entrances and exits, such as office buildings, shopping malls, public transport and hawker centres and coffee shops.
Places which are sheltered but with open access generally, such as HDB void decks, retail block walkways, bus stops, and naturally ventilated bus interchanges will be regarded as outdoor areas.
But the Ministry of Health still encourages people to wear their masks even when outdoors for personal protection and to protect others, especially in crowded areas.
3. Dining in and alcohol
Groups of up to 10 fully vaccinated people will be allowed to dine at food and beverage (F&B) establishments.
They include hawker centres and coffee shops, where full vaccination-differentiated safe management measures checks have been implemented at their entrances.
But all F&B operators can also seat smaller groups of up to five fully vaccinated people without the need for full vaccination-differentiated checks at the entrance. Random spot checks will be conducted.
The current restriction in F&B establishments on the sale and consumption of alcohol after 10.30pm will also be lifted.
4. Three-quarters of staff can return to the office
Up to 75 per cent of employees who can work from home will be allowed to return to their workplaces, an increase from the current 50 per cent.
5. Increase capacity limit for events
The capacity limit for larger events and settings - those with more than 1,000 people - will be raised to 75 per cent.
For smaller settings or events with 1,000 people or fewer, they can proceed without being subject to any capacity limit.
6. Live performances and singing allowed
Live performances will be allowed to resume at all venues, including F&B establishments. Outdoor live performances and busking will also be allowed to resume.
Groups that are involved in the performances will have to comply with prevailing safe management measures.
Vocalisation activities by large groups, such as congregational singing and chanting, audience cheering, and singing in general settings like schools, will be allowed - as long as masks are worn throughout the activities.
7. Larger-scale social gatherings allowed
Larger-scale social gatherings and events such as gala dinners, corporate dinner-and-dance events, and birthday celebrations and anniversaries, will now be allowed to resume.
They will be limited to 10 people at each table, and safe distancing of 1m between tables.
8. Second booster for vulnerable people
A second booster dose is recommended for those who are medically susceptible to severe Covid-19.
These include those aged 80 and above, individuals living in aged care facilities, such as nursing homes, and medically vulnerable people who are at increased risk of severe disease.
They will maintain their vaccination status even if they do not take the second booster dose.
9. Toddlers with Covid-19 can recover at home from March 25
Children aged 12 months to two years old will be managed under Protocol 2 from March 25, which means they can recover either at home or under the care of their primary care physicians or paediatricians.
10. All fully vaccinated travellers can enter Singapore from March 31
In his speech, PM Lee announced that Singapore will drastically streamline testing and quarantine requirements for travellers.
This simplified Vaccinated Travel Framework will let Singaporeans travel abroad more easily - almost like before Covid-19, he added.
This move will also lift most restrictions for fully vaccinated visitors entering Singapore.
From March 31 at 11.59pm, these travellers will be able to enter Singapore with just a pre-departure Covid-19 test. They will no longer be required to take only designated flights to enter quarantine-free, and will not have to take a Covid-19 antigen rapid test (ART) within 24 hours of arrival.
There will also be no more quota on the number of daily arrivals and no entry approval needed for all vaccinated travellers.
MOH said: "We will continue to monitor the local and global Covid-19 situation and consider removing the pre-departure test requirement in the coming weeks."
11. Remotely supervised ART for travellers
Remote supervised ART services by approved licensed providers in Singapore will be allowed for Singapore citizens, permanent residents, long-term pass holders and work pass holders arriving from selected countries.
Going forward, Singapore will accept PCR tests, professionally administered ARTs and ARTs supervised by approved licensed providers in Singapore (including remotely supervised ARTs) taken within two days before departure for Singapore.
Travellers who want to use the remote services should book their slots early with these providers via their respective websites and take along approved ART kits from Singapore for their remotely supervised ART.
They can refer to this website for a list of approved providers, and the travellers and countries or regions that this service applies to.
12. Singapore-Malaysia land border reopening
Land borders between the two countries will reopen for fully vaccinated travellers from March 31, 11.59pm, the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) announced.
Besides the designated vaccinated travel bus services, fully vaccinated travellers may cross the borders using private vehicles like cars and motorcycles.
Singapore and Malaysia are also progressively restoring other modes of transport, including cross-border public bus services, MTI said.
13. No more Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) ferry services
There will no longer be specially designated VTL ferries and on-arrival tests for travellers to Singapore by sea from April 1. The weekly quota will also be lifted.
Anyone who is fully vaccinated will just need to do a pre-departure Covid-19 test within two days of taking the ferry to travel quarantine-free.
14. No more rostered routine testing
From March 29, rostered routing testing for all sectors will be stopped.
Employers and businesses who want to impose regular testing at the workplace at their cost may continue to do so.
People are still encouraged to self-test when they feel unwell or have had recent contact with an infected person.