ST Explains: What is the significance of the new streamlined safe management measures?

Safe distancing is encouraged but will not be required between individuals or groups of people in mask-on settings. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - As part of a move to simplify Covid-19 rules, the Government announced on Wednesday (Feb 16) that some safe management measures - including unique rules for specific settings - will be relaxed or done away with entirely.

The streamlining of these measures in the coming weeks will focus on five areas, namely: group sizes, mask wearing, workplace rules, safe distancing and capacity limits.

"We'll try our best to work just within these five parameters and adjust the postures, instead of coming out with micro rules for different settings," said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, at a multi-ministry task force press conference on Wednesday.

The rule changes will allow for the measures to be dialled up or down depending on the situation. They also put more emphasis on personal social responsibility in managing the pandemic.

Mask wearing remains the default. But from Feb 25, several new guidelines will take effect.

Safe distancing is encouraged but will not be required between individuals or groups of people in mask-on settings. However, it will still be mandatory in settings where masks are not worn, such as when dining at food and beverage outlets.

As for group sizes for social gatherings, the cap remains at five people. But the maximum number of unique visitors per household will be adjusted from five people per day, to five people at any one time.

In terms of workplace rules, firms can cross-deploy staff across workplaces, and social gatherings at the workplace will also be allowed to resume, with up to five people in a group. The current limit of up to 50 per cent of employees who can work from home being allowed to return to office will stay.

Additionally, all sports will be allowed to carry on with up to 30 fully vaccinated people at supervised or operated sports facilities, and approved private venues.

From March 4, specific event size limits for events such as wedding receptions, religious services and business events will be lifted.

Q: What is the significance of streamlining the rules and why was this done?

A: Mr Ong said the simplification of rules will allow Singapore to be more nimble, whether it is to ease safe management measures further when the Omicron wave subsides, or to tighten measures should the situation worsen, such as with the emergence of another Covid-19 variant of concern.

"Through simplification (of the rules), we think that people are more likely to understand not just the letter, but also the spirit of the rules," said Mr Ong.

"They will then be able to exercise individual responsibility and do their part to help manage the pandemic."

This also ties in with the introduction of the health risk notice (HRN) advisory, which will replace the health risk warning (HRW).

Unlike the HRW - which requires immediate self-isolation and a monitoring period of seven days, where the individual has to do an antigen rapid test before leaving the house - the HRN has a shorter monitoring period of five days.

Singapore's director of medical services Kenneth Mak said: "(HRN) doesn't require a mandated period of self-isolation, but this is in keeping with our general approach to emphasise a lot more self-responsibility in managing one's health as well as Covid-19 infections."

Q: What will be the changes to daily life?

A: The changes will take effect in the coming weeks, and includes settings like school assemblies, which will no longer be limited to 30 minutes.

Public seating areas like park benches, and alternate urinals in men's toilets will no longer be crossed out.

Barbecue pits will be reopened, but gatherings should be kept to a maximum of five persons.

Magazines and newspapers can be placed in common areas, while hairdryers can be placed in public showers as long as good hygiene is maintained.

Q: What will the rule changes mean for weddings?

A: Wedding guests will no longer be divided into zones, as long as they keep to the allowed group size of five people, and do not mingle across tables.

Under current rules, marriage solemnisations and receptions have to be split into zones.

Zones, which must not exceed a total of 100 attendees, have to be clearly demarcated, such as being 2m apart with physical barriers such as barricade tape or queue pole stands linked by retractable belts.

For marriage solemnisations or wedding receptions held in external venues, such as restaurants or hotel ballrooms, the current limits are 1,000 attendees for solemnisations, and 250 attendees for wedding receptions.

All attendees will also have to comply with vaccination-differentiated safe management measures, that is, they will have to be fully vaccinated, recovered from Covid-19, certified as medically ineligible for all vaccines under the National Vaccination Programme, or a child aged 12 and below.

Q: What will the rule changes mean for events?

A: Instead of fixed size limits for different types of events, the Ministry of Health will set event sizes based on the capacity of the venue.

As is the case with wedding solemnisations and receptions, zoning requirements will also be removed because the main protection is through masks and vaccination-differentiated safe management measures.

However, for large events with over 1,000 attendees and settings that pose higher infection risks, capacity limits will continue to be imposed as a precautionary measure.

These include attractions, cruises, Mice (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) and large work-related events, as well as large performing arts venues or sports stadiums.

This article has been edited for clarity. 

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