SINGAPORE - Indoor, mask-off sports and exercise activities will be allowed to resume in groups of two people - down from the previously announced groups of five - when the second stage of the economy's reopening begins next Monday (June 21), said the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Friday.
These measures were tightened in the light of the emergence of a major Covid-19 cluster at the Bukit Merah View market and food centre and other new Covid-19 cases.
The class sizes for such indoor, mask-off activities will be limited to 30 people, including the instructor.
Safe distancing of at least 2m between individuals and 3m between groups will also have to be observed.
Indoor, mask-on activities and outdoor, mask-off activities will be allowed to go on in groups of five, with a maximum of 30 people per class, including the instructor.
All staff who work at gyms and fitness studios where clients are unmasked will be placed on a regular 14-day Fast and Easy Tests (FET) regimen, which will be made mandatory from around mid-July.
MOH said it will "onboard staff in these settings as quickly as possible onto regular FET, starting with using antigen rapid tests".
It added that these "higher-risk activities" would be allowed to increase to group sizes of five from mid-July "barring another superspreader event or big cluster".
With these stricter measures in place, the Government will extend the current enhancement to the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) for affected sectors by three weeks, before tapering it down to 10 per cent for another two weeks.
Eligible gyms and fitness studios can currently tap 50 per cent wage support under JSS.
Singapore Fitness Alliance president Sean Tan, who is also a director of the True Group, said: "We are thankful that gyms and fitness centres will be permitted to reopen on Monday.
"The rule of 2m between individuals and 3m between groups is a guideline that we have previously adhered to and have prepared for. The 14-day Fast and Easy Test (FET) regimen is also well spaced out, ensuring safety without imposing too onerous requirements on gyms.
"We are prepared to make further adjustments to adhere to other safety guidelines along the way to support the government's plan to gradually open up whilst we wait for the population to reach a higher vaccination rate."
He added that the True group "have been hard at work in ensuring our clubs are ready for them (gym goers)" and "are ready to reopen".
Jasmine Chong, co-founder of yoga and barre outfit Lab Studios, was relieved to receive some clarity as she had expected another delay given the increase in the number of Covid cases in the past week.
Chong, who has been conducting all her sessions online, said: "Being able to operate is already something we're grateful for, it's at least a step forward."
On the compulsory testing, the 32-year-old added: "I see this as a move to fight for us businesses to allow us to keep operating as much as possible. It's a matter of risk management as well."
In a Facebook post, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong acknowledged that "it's a little disheartening and more than a tad frustrating that when we thought we could open up more, we had to pull back somewhat".
But he added, the emergence of the recent clusters "reflects just how fragile and unpredictable the current situation is".
In its press release, MOH said: "The persistence of unlinked cases suggests that there are undetected cases in the community.
"Until we achieve a higher rate of vaccination within our population, public health measures such as testing, ring-fencing, and calibrated reopenings continue to be our best defences against the virus."
Read Sport Singapore's guidance on safe management measures here.