SINGAPORE - Larger groups of five people can be expected to be allowed to dine in together from next Monday (July 12), as Singapore eases measures and opens up further from a recent outbreak in community cases.
"These additional measures have worked in curbing the spread of the virus, while allowing most parts of the economy to continue operating," Finance Minister Lawrence Wong told Parliament on Monday.
"So that is why we started to ease the restrictions from June 14, when we moved from phase two to phase three (heightened alert); and we expect to open up further from July 12 to allow larger groups of five people to dine together," he added in a speech.
Mr Wong was giving an update on the Government's support measures for businesses and workers affected by tightened Covid-19 restrictions, and how they will be financed.
In his speech, he said that more calibrated measures were adopted to deal with new Covid-19 clusters that had formed in early- to mid-May, unlike the economy-wide circuit breaker measures last year.
The clusters in May were "most notably" at Tan Tock Seng Hospital and Changi Airport. There was also a sustained increase in unlinked community cases, he said.
To protect Singaporeans and control the spread of the virus, the country moved into phase two (heightened alert) on May 16, noted Mr Wong, who is co-chairman of a multi-ministry task force handling Covid-19.
Measures introduced were aimed at reducing transmission risks in indoor settings where people do not have their masks on, and where there is a higher chance of large clusters forming.
After a month of stepped-up precautions saw an eventual dip in cases, the authorities said on June 10 that Singapore would gradually reopen and move to phase three (heightened alert). From June 14, the cap on social gatherings was raised from two people to five.
Dining in at eateries resumed a week later, but in groups of up to two people.
Last Thursday, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung had said in an exclusive interview with The Straits Times that the next relaxation of Covid-19 measures was expected on July 12.
In his speech, Mr Wong said he understands people’s desire to go back to how things were before the pandemic, including travelling overseas for leisure, playing sports, attending events at entertainment venues and to go without masks.
However, he noted that the reality is that Covid-19 is unlikely to go away anytime soon.
“But with vaccination and improvements in treatment, we can make SARS-CoV-2 look more like influenza in terms of morbidity and mortality.”
He said the target is for two-thirds of Singapore’s population to be fully vaccinated by National Day on Aug 9.
“It is an ambitious target. But we are making steady progress towards it. We are also going all out to engage our seniors and get more of them vaccinated,” added Mr Wong. With high vaccination rates, the economy will be able to reopen safely, he said.
Safe distancing rules will also be eased progressively, especially for those who are vaccinated, and large gatherings, concerts, sporting events and overseas travel would be possible again.
“This has been a long and difficult journey. We have been running this marathon together for some time. I know many are fatigued and tired. But we are seeing light at the end of the tunnel,” said Mr Wong.