Businesses need to prepare for endemic Covid-19 in Singapore: Gan Kim Yong

Businesses can encourage and facilitate all medically-eligible employees, especially those involved in high-touch point activities, to get vaccinated. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

SINGAPORE - Businesses here should help eligible employees get vaccinated, integrate the use of antigen rapid tests into work processes, and continue flexible work arrangements as Singapore transits towards living with endemic Covid-19.

Making the points in a ministerial statement on Monday (July 26), Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong said businesses need to prepare as the nation's vaccination coverage increases.

Safe management measures will be eased, including restrictions on social gatherings. He added that certain events will see higher capacity limits as safe management measures are adjusted.

This means that food and beverage establishments, retail, and other businesses that provide in-person services such as gyms and beauty services will see a return in demand.

Mr Gan said workplace restrictions will also be eased, and progressively, more workers could return to the office. As a result, businesses will be able to conduct face-to-face meetings, or hold team bonding and networking activities.

To prepare for this eventuality, businesses can encourage and facilitate all medically eligible employees, especially those involved in high touch point activities, to get vaccinated.

Those who cannot be vaccinated should be deployed to lower-risk settings.

Second, the use of antigen rapid self test kits should be integrated into work processes, especially for businesses that provide services with high touch points, or those that tap a pool of workers that frequently change.

"Encourage employees to self-isolate and get themselves tested if they are not feeling well, or if they suspect they may have been exposed to Covid-19. Doing so can help detect cases early, and limit the extent of disruption to your businesses," said Mr Gan, adding that he knows of several employers who have made bulk purchases of testing kits so their staff can have easy access to them.

Third, to strengthen operational resilience, businesses should continue to allow flexible work arrangements and put in place business continuity plans.

Mr Gan said businesses can expect other changes with an endemic Covid-19.

For example, they would not have to shut down their premises for deep cleaning whenever a Covid-19 case emerges, and huge resources would not have to be pumped into contact tracing efforts.

With domestic infected cases creating much less disruption than they do currently, businesses will be able to largely return to normal operations, he added.

He said: "Infected individuals with mild symptoms may be able to recover from home, and close contacts will likely just be required to monitor their health without the need for quarantine or self-isolation. This is similar to how we treat influenza cases today."

Mr Gan added that Singapore is also looking at relaxing border restrictions safely, as many parts of the economy require a steady flow of people in and out of the country.

He said: "As a business hub, many of our executives have to travel to manage and grow their regional businesses. Our tourism and Mice ( meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) industry, as well as our air hub status, also critically depends on international connectivity."

As the vaccination coverage rate here increases, and the majority of residents are protected against Covid-19, Mr Gan said Singapore will progressively facilitate international travel with countries that have managed the pandemic well.

This means fully vaccinated persons will be able to travel and do business more freely.

"This is a critical move that will allow us to reassert Singapore's position as a business, travel and talent hub. We are working this out carefully and engaging partner countries, and will provide more details when ready," said Mr Gan.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.