Tightened circuit breaker measures extended for another week; some activities allowed to resume from May 5

Businesses such as barbers, home-based businesses and laundry services will be allowed to resume operations from May 12, 2020. PHOTOS: MARCELLIN LOPEZ, ST FILE, GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - Singapore's tightened circuit breaker measures will remain in place for another week, with businesses like barbers, home-based bakers and laundry services allowed to resume operating on May 12. Some measures will also be adjusted next week.

But the multi-ministry task force handling the outbreak took pains to stress that this did not mean the battle with the disease was won.

"We are making good progress but we are not yet at single digits when it comes to local transmission, so it is not time to lift the tighter measures we have in place," said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong on Saturday (May 2). "We still need to continue for another week. But we can start making some adjustments."

Mr Wong stressed, however, that the situation remains fluid and plans may need to be adjusted further, depending on how the situation unfolds in the coming weeks.

"The bottom line is, this is not the time to slacken and let our guard down. We may be easing some measures but we must stay very disciplined and vigilant," he said.

"We have to do this cautiously and gradually. And as we do this, we need everyone to cooperate, so that we can open up the economy and resume normal activities safely without causing further clusters to form."

TCM acupuncture will be allowed from May 5 for pain management where deemed essential by practitioners, while registered TCM practitioners will be able to sell retail products to meet the needs of Singaporeans. Activities like walking and exercising, previously disallowed on the ground of private condominium estates, will be allowed to resume, though common facilities like swimming pools and gyms will have to remain closed.

Then from May 12, selected businesses such as barbers, home-based businesses and laundry services will be allowed to resume operation. However, they would still have to abide by the precautions in place before April 21, when Singapore further tightened its circuit breaker measures. For instance, hairdressers can offer only haircuts.

Schools will also begin to bring back students in small groups for face-to-face lessons from May 19, with the focus on graduating cohorts taking national exams this year.

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Priority will be given to those who need school facilities for coursework and those who need support during school vacation periods.

The average number of new cases in the community daily has dropped by more than half to 12 in the past week from 25 in the week before, according to the Ministry of Health.

Of Singapore's 932 new cases on Friday, 11 were community cases.

Singapore entered its circuit breaker period on April 7, which is due to last until May 4.

Then, most workplaces, save for those in essential services and key economic sectors such as markets and supermarkets, and transport and key banking services, were closed as the majority of Singapore's workforce began to work from home.

Schools and institutes of higher learning shifted to full home-based learning and mid-year exams were cancelled.

Many non-essential retail outlets were shut, and while food and beverage outlets were allowed to remain open, no dining-in was allowed, only takeaways and deliveries.

Most sports and recreational centres were also shut but public parks remained open. Social gatherings of any size in homes or public spaces were forbidden under the new Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act.

On April 21, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced an extension to the circuit breaker period to June 1, which came with more stringent safe distancing measures.

These included expanding the list of non-essential businesses required to shut, such as bubble tea outlets and hairdressing and barber shops.

The number of workers commuting daily was cut from 20 to 15 per cent of the workforce. Home-based learning was also extended.

The Ministry of Health said then that the tighter measures would be in place for at least two weeks until May 4 (inclusive of the date).

PM Lee also explained then that Singapore's strategy to exit the circuit breaker would include relaxing safe distancing measures gradually, stepping up testing substantially and making better use of technology for contact tracing purposes.

On Saturday, Mr Wong said that a comprehensive review will be conducted on the government's response, but not in the heat of the battle with the outbreak.

Asked about the lessons learnt about the response to the infection, he said: "We are still in the heat of battle, but certainly when all this is over, we will have the chance to look back and learn from the experience. This is what we have done, each time after every crisis."

He noted that lessons from the Sars outbreak was helpful in the effort to deal with Covid-19.

"At the right time, we will certainly do a comprehensive review of this pandemic and our response, and seek to learn from it. I have no doubt that we will find many things which we could have done better, and many changes which should be made in order for us to be better prepared the next time," he said.

" That is our overall attitude to always seek to learn, to improve and to do better for the future. But for now, we should focus on the urgent priorities, and that is to bring the outbreak under control, to take care of our migrant workers and to work out how we can exit from the circuit breaker and resume normal activities safely."

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