'Rule of five' to apply to gatherings in phase 2, including walkabouts ahead of general election

The Elections Department has not yet released campaigning guidelines. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - Social gatherings of up to five people will be allowed in phase two of the country's reopening, indicating that political parties will be able to conduct walkabouts in the run-up to the upcoming general election in small groups.

The Health Ministry on Monday (June 15) announced that when phase two begins on Friday (June 19), a wider range of activities like dining in at restaurants can resume. Households can also receive up to five visitors at any one time.

People have to stay at least 1m apart, and where this is not possible, small groups should stay at least 1m from one another.

Asked about guidelines for walkabouts should the general election be held in phase two, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said: "In terms of activities, we've highlighted if you're out and about, then the rule of five would apply. So you can go out with your friends to exercise, to go on a walk, then up to five people, but not more than that, and all must wear masks."

The Elections Department (ELD) has not yet released campaigning guidelines, saying such rules are not ready as these have to take into account the existing rules on safe distancing and management closer to the actual date of the polls.

During the virtual press conference on Monday, the task force was also asked about phase two of reopening and the election time frame, as well as how it could impact campaigning.

Responding, Mr Wong said guidelines related to elections are "put together separately by the Elections Department".

"So, this can happen in phase two, it may happen in phase three, no one will know the exact timing at this stage, but should the election be called, the Elections Department will certainly explain what the precautions, safeguards and campaign guidelines entail. So that's not for this task force to answer," added the minister, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force handling the pandemic.

The Health Ministry's director of medical services Kenneth Mak noted that the ELD consults his ministry on matters concerning public health.

"Whenever an election is called, the prevailing public health requirements will have to be adhered to at that point in time," he added.

The ELD recently unveiled a set of safety measures for voters ahead of the general election. The number of polling stations will be increased from 880 to 1,100, for example, to reduce the number of voters going to each station from 3,000 to 2,400.

Voters will be also given recommended time slots, and can check the queue situation at their polling station online before showing up.

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