Singapore to begin phase 3 on Dec 28

Social gathering size to be raised to 8; higher capacity at places of worship, attractions

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Singapore will enter phase three of its reopening in two weeks, on Dec 28, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

The permitted group size for social gatherings will go up from five to eight, with capacity limits at attractions, malls and places of worship also set to be increased.

But even as Singaporeans take the chance to reconnect with friends and family, they must continue to keep their guard up as the battle is far from won, PM Lee emphasised in a televised national address.

Around the world, the pandemic is still raging and many countries are seeing recurrent waves of infection with record numbers of daily cases, he said. "The Covid-19 virus has not been eradicated. There is a long way to go."

The increased limits on social gatherings will allow households to receive up to eight visitors at a time. Attractions can start applying to the Singapore Tourism Board to increase their operating capacity to up to 65 per cent, while religious organisations will be able to hold worship services for up to 250 people, split up into groups of 50.

Rules will also be relaxed for marriage solemnisations and live performances.

PM Lee expressed his gratitude to Singaporeans, who have complied with the spirit of the rules imposed to keep Covid-19 at bay.

"We stayed united, kept up our guard, and did not allow ourselves to become complacent over time," he said.

"With everyone's full support, our enhanced safeguards worked, and we could gradually ease our restrictions. We can be proud of how far we have come."

But PM Lee also stressed that the longer Singapore's borders stay closed to travellers, the greater the country's risk of losing out as an international hub, which will hurt Singaporeans' livelihoods.

Singapore must, therefore, reopen its borders in a "controlled and safe manner", with the knowledge that it will see more imported cases which could spread to the community.

"This is a calculated risk we have to accept," PM Lee said. "But the Government will take every precaution and do our best to prevent imported cases from triggering a new outbreak."

He added that the virus is likely still circulating silently within the Singapore community, and Singaporeans should continue to be watchful and cautious.

"This is absolutely not the time to relax, and let our guard down or to hold a big party, imagining that the problem has disappeared," PM Lee said.

Phase three means that Singapore will end the year with some good news, PM Lee said. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

The multi-ministerial task force tackling the pandemic elaborated on some of the announcements PM Lee made, and also gave an update on migrant workers.

Workers in some dormitories will be allowed back into the community once a month, as part of a pilot scheme. To do so, these workers will have to undergo rostered routine testing, wear contact tracing devices and comply with safe living measures.

Rounding up the press conference that was broadcast live, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said the risk of infection will go up as more people are allowed to gather, and more social and economic activities resume.

"That means the enforcement, the discipline has to be strengthened and tightened so we can continue to contain the risk and keep the number of cases as low as possible, so we can have a smooth and safe journey through phase three," he added.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 15, 2020, with the headline Singapore to begin phase 3 on Dec 28. Subscribe