Up to 5 household visitors at a time, more VTLs to come: S'pore's new Covid-19 rules at a glance

The multi-ministry task force tackling the Covid-19 pandemic has announced some tweaks to safe management measures in place. ST PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG, LIM YAOHUI, MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - Safe management measures - with some tweaks - will remain till the Omicron wave is over, said the multi-ministry task force tackling the Covid-19 pandemic on Wednesday (Feb 16).

The Ministry of Health (MOH) said that Singapore is in the midst of an Omicron wave and seeing up to about 20,000 daily cases, with the numbers expected to remain moderately high for some time before coming down.

Here are key updates to Covid-19 measures announced on Wednesday:

1. Social gatherings remain at 5 people, but households can have 5 visitors at any one time

ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

For now, the permissible group size for social gatherings remains at five people, said MOH.

From Feb 25, the maximum number of unique visitors per household will be adjusted from five persons per day, to five persons at any one time.

Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong said that for now, Singapore will keep to current safe management measures with some tweaks.

Once the Omicron wave is over, "we can then consider bolder moves such as adjusting the group size to eight, 10 or even more", he said.

READ FULL STORY: S'pore to simplify Covid-19 rules for gatherings, travel; up to 5 household visitors allowed at any one time per day

2. Safe distancing encouraged but not required in mask-on settings

From Feb 25, safe distancing is encouraged but will not be required between individuals or groups in all mask-on settings, said MOH.

Safe distancing will continue to be required in all mask-off settings.

Where safe distancing is required, the distance will be streamlined to a single safe distance of 1m for all settings, said the ministry.

3. Streamlining of safe management measures

PHOTO: ST FILE

Safe management measures have been made simpler to understand and comply with. They will focus on five most important and effective measures, said MOH.

The five measures are group sizes, mask-wearing, workplace requirements, safe distancing and capacity limits.

Streamlined safe management measures will begin from Feb 25 unless otherwise stated.

For example, the current limit of up to 50 per cent of employees who can work from home being allowed to return to office will stay.

From Feb 25, workers who have their masks on will not need to maintain 1m safe distancing in the workplace. Social gatherings at workplaces will also be allowed to resume with up to five persons for each social gathering.

There will be no restrictions on cross-deployment of employees across workplaces, although employers may continue to do so for business continuity reasons.

Minister for Health Ong Ye Kung added: "We no longer forbid practices that actually do not make a material difference to the pandemic but which we are observing strictly."

As long as people are wearing masks, there is no need to cross out alternate seats and benches, or urinals in a men's toilet.

Newspapers or magazines can be placed in common areas, and hair dryers in public showers as long as good hygiene is maintained, said Mr Ong.

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Barbecue pits can be open so long as people gather together and socialise according to the group size prescribed.

"You don't have to divide guests in zones or weddings so long as they keep to their group sizes and do not mingle across tables," he added.

School assemblies will also no longer be restricted to 30 minutes, which is the rule today.

READ FULL STORY: Singapore's Covid-19 rules to focus on 5 effective measures like group size and safe distancing

4. Changes in capacity limits

ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Instead of fixing size limits for various event types, Singapore will move to setting event sizes based on the capacity of the venue.

From March 4, specific event size limits for events such as religious services, business events, media conferences, funerary memorial events, wedding receptions and mask-on classes will be lifted.

Zoning requirements will also be removed, as the main protection is through masks and vaccinations.

Large events and settings which pose more infection risks will still have capacity limits imposed as a precaution. 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.

5. Vaccinated Travel Lane (Land) between Singapore and Malaysia quota restored

PHOTO: ST FILE

In December, the VTL quota was temporarily halved to delay the onset of Omicron transmission.

On Wednesday, the Ministry of Trade and Industry said the VTL (Land) quota will be reinstated from Feb 22, allowing for 2, 160 travellers a day - the equivalent of 48 bus trips.

Sales for the additional bus tickets for travel from Feb 22 will start immediately.

Mr Gan said Singapore will progressively expand VTL (Land), taking into account the public health situation in Singapore and Malaysia.

Measures for such travellers will also be streamlined from Feb 21, 11.59pm.

For example, current travellers need to take a supervised self-swab antigen rapid test (ART) upon arrival at the bus terminal.

The new measures require only a supervised self-swab ART within 24 hours of arrival, at a Quick Test Centre or Combined Test Centre.

There will also not be a requirement for unsupervised self-swab ARTs on days 2 to 7 of arrival, so VTL travellers will only have to do the pre-departure test and within-24-hours-of arrival test.

READ FULL STORY: S'pore-Malaysia land VTL traveller quota to be reinstated from Feb 22

6. Updated border measures

PHOTOS: AFP, BLOOMBERG

With immediate effect, VTL (Air) quotas are fully restored.

A new VTL with Hong Kong and the previously deferred VTLs with Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will be launched from Feb 25, said MOH.

Bi-directional quarantine-free sea travel between Singapore and Indonesia will resume with the launch of VTL (Sea) from Bintan and Batam, with the first ferry trip on Feb 25.

From Feb 21, 11.59pm, stay-home notice durations will be standardised to seven days across all country and region categories in view of Omicron's shorter incubation period.

VTL and Category 1 travellers will no longer need to perform an on-arrival polymerase chain reaction test.

Instead, they will have up to 24 hours from entry into Singapore to take a supervised self-swab ART at one of the testing centres across the island.

The travel history requirement will also be reduced from 14 to seven days.

READ FULL STORY: S'pore to start VTLs for HK, Philippines, all of Thailand, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Israel

7. Sports to resume with up to 30 fully vaccinated persons at selected venues

PHOTO: ST FILE

From Feb 25, all sports will be allowed to proceed with up to 30 fully vaccinated persons - including players, coaches and umpires - at supervised or operated sports facilities such as ActiveSG facilities and approved private facilities, said MOH.

There will be no additional testing requirements imposed, but participants are strongly encouraged to self-test before arriving for the sport activity.

The prevailing safe management measures will apply before and after the sport activity, and during rest breaks.

READ FULL STORY: Sports activities can resume in groups of 30 from Feb 25

8. Changes to protocol for close contacts of Covid-19 cases

ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Currently, close contacts of positive cases identified by MOH are issued with a seven-day health risk warning which imposes an ART-based daily self-testing regime should they wish to leave home.

However, close contacts of cases who self-test positive are not able to be identified and are thus not issued the warning, said MOH.

Hence from Feb 18, the protocol will be changed from an order to an advisory, with a health risk notice replacing the warning for close contacts identified by MOH.

Persons issued with the notice can continue to obtain their ART test kits through designated vending machines, to facilitate their self-testing during the monitoring period.

The recommended self-monitoring period will be reduced from seven days to five.

READ FULL STORY: Close contacts of confirmed Covid-19 cases to have shorter monitoring period as HRW is replaced

9. In-person visits to hospitals and residential care homes remain suspended for another four weeks

ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

To protect healthcare capacity and vulnerable groups, in-person visits to hospital wards and residential care homes will be further suspended from Feb 21 to March 20, said MOH.

There will be a mid-point review after two weeks, it added.

Hospitals and homes have the discretion to allow visits for exceptional cases, such as if the patient or resident is critically ill.

10. Eligible nursing home residents with Covid-19 can recover at the home

ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Currently, nursing home residents infected with Covid-19 are moved from the nursing homes to recover at separate care facilities.

From Feb 16, MOH and the Agency for Integrated Care will progressively support nursing homes to care for their fully vaccinated Covid-19 residents who are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic within their premises, but isolated from uninfected residents.

This will allow generally well residents with Covid-19 infection to recover safely in the care of their nursing home provider who is most familiar with their needs. Residents assessed to be at higher risk, or who show signs of clinical deterioration, will continue to be taken to an appropriate care facility for further management, said MOH.

READ FULL STORY: Fully vaccinated nursing home residents with no or mild symptoms allowed to recover on-site

11. Streamlined rostered routine testing regime

ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

From Feb 18, the rostered routine testing regime will be focused only on settings catering to vulnerable groups such as the healthcare sector, eldercare sector, settings with children below age five and selected essential services sectors.

Other sectors will no longer be required to continue testing from Feb 18.

READ FULL STORY: Healthcare and eldercare sectors must continue with rostered routine testing for Covid-19

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