Singapore gets into gear for return of phase 2 Covid-19 curbs

Restaurant manager Ken Lim and supervisor Annie Wong shifting tables to accommodate smaller dining group sizes at Yun Nans restaurant at Westgate mall on May 5. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - Singapore is gearing up for a temporary disruption to its re-opening plans, as it raises its defences against the coronavirus following the worst spate of Covid-19 community infections in close to a year.

Pre-schools will impose curbs on parents entering their premises, restaurants are scrambling to rearrange bookings made for Mother's Day this weekend while more people will start working from home even before restrictions are tightened on Saturday (May 8).

At firms such as UOB and power generation company Senoko Energy, workers who are able to do so are already telecommuting full-time. They had embarked on these arrangements earlier this week.

This is above and beyond the demands of the new rules, which allow for up to 50 per cent of employees who are able to work from home to be in the office at any one time. Currently, the capacity limit is 75 per cent.

There was some respite on Wednesday with just one new Covid-19 case in the community being reported, although the number had hit 62 over the past week - more than the total for the first quarter of the year.

Still, there was no let-up in precautions. The Early Childhood Development Agency said that, from Saturday, there would be a ban on all parents entering pre-school premises, except those with newly-enrolled children.

Meanwhile, gyms, sports associations, restaurants and arts groups are scrambling to make alternative arrangements for events, performances, classes and gatherings.

This is in view of new measures that will require indoor gyms and fitness studios to close, as well as for social gatherings to be reduced to groups of up to five, down from eight currently.

President Halimah Yacob acknowledged that the tightened measures may be disappointing to Singaporeans, especially to those who are looking forward to celebrating Hari Raya.

"But I hope Singaporeans understand the importance of reacting quickly to prevent the situation from worsening further," she wrote on Facebook, urging Singaporeans to stay united in the long-drawn fight against Covid-19.

Large events - such as worship services, weddings, funerals and live performances - will also face more restrictions, including pre-event testing and reduced sizes from Saturday till May 30.

On Wednesday, food and beverage operators were kept busy fielding calls, as scores of diners dialled in to make changes to Mother's Day bookings this weekend. Some have requested to bring reservations forward to Friday, while others have reduced dining party sizes or asked to cancel bookings altogether.

Restaurants are also bracing themselves for a surge in takeaway and delivery orders instead.

Meanwhile, some domestic sports leagues have suspended their competitions till May 30.

Indoor fitness studios are also exploring alternative arrangements, including offering classes online or offering more outdoor classes.

Arts groups have also started making fresh arrangements, including by introducing additional show times for concerts so that audience capacities can be reduced. Seating plans may also be re-arranged so that audiences can sit in groups of up to five people, instead of eight.

The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth on Wednesday released new measures for religious activities.

At worship services with more than 50 people, including those subject to pre-event testing requirements, attendees have to be segregated into zones of no more than 50 people each.

Those involved in conducting of the worship service will not be allowed to sing while masked.

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