Coronavirus: Working from home to be the norm for most even after circuit breaker ends, says Chan Chun Sing

Many have already become accustomed to using online platforms for meetings and other work activities, said Mr Chan Chun Sing. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Working from home will continue to be the norm for the majority even after the circuit breaker ends on June 1, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said on Sunday (May 3).

Speaking to reporters in a virtual interview, he said that on-site work activities had already been reduced to about 30 per cent prior to the circuit breaker, which began on April 7, and they will likely return to this level when it ends. About 17 per cent of Singapore's workforce currently commutes to work as they are in essential services.

"For those who are able to work from home, we expect them to continue to work from home for the foreseeable future," said Mr Chan, who added that many have already become accustomed to using online platforms for meetings and other work activities.

"So we will not be able to open some of the social entertainment outlets, but we are focused on our manufacturing capacities and production capabilities first," he said.

Sectors that allow Singapore to trade with the world and access critical supplies will progressively restart first, said Mr Chan.

The Government is looking at help schemes for sectors that will reopen later, he added.

While there is no timeline for when the economy will return to full capacity, "if we can continue to sustain very low numbers in the community spread, it will give us greater confidence to progressively open up more sectors to recover as near to full capacity as we possibly can", he said.

"We will make sure that we maintain the connectivity for all our air, land and sea links, not just for Singapore, but also for the region and the global supply chain," he added.

Asked about benchmarks for the resumption of economic activity and on-site activities, Mr Chan said that the focus is not on numbers but safe working conditions. Firms will open progressively from May 12 once they have put safe management practices in place, he said.

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Discussions are also ongoing with several countries including Japan and South Korea on the resumption of essential business travel.

"This will require us to have coordination on the standards of health checks for mutual assurance (and) require us to have a system to track and trace, in case there is an infected person," he said.

"I think this will be the modus operandi of how things will progress in the next few months, if not a year or two, because we will take some time to adjust to this new normal. And all of us will have to rethink the way we live and work to do this."

Mr Chan's comments come a day after the Government laid out plans to ease some of the tighter restrictions put in place during Singapore's circuit breaker. On Saturday, the government had announced the extension of the tightened circuit breaker measures put in place on April 21 - due to have ended on May 4 - for another week, with some businesses then progressively opening from May 12.

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