SINGAPORE - Safety measures for higher-risk, indoor, mask-off settings such as gyms and fitness studios will be tightened from Monday (July 19) to Aug 8.
The multi-ministry task force (MTF) on Covid-19 announced these changes on Friday as Singapore deals with the fallout from the growing cluster linked to KTV karaoke lounges.
The announcement comes just five days after safe management measures were relaxed on Monday.
The changes, which aim to prevent the community transmission of the coronavirus, mean that high-intensity, mask-off activities in a gym or fitness studio will once again see group sizes reduced to two in a class of no more than 30, including the instructor, without the need for testing or vaccination.
Activities in groups of five can continue if all individuals in the class are fully vaccinated, are they are a recovered patient, or have a valid negative Covid-19 test result covering the duration of the class, added the MTF.
Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, who is co-chair of the MTF, explained that this was because vaccinated persons "are better protected against the infection and are less likely to infect others".
Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong, who is also co-chair of the MTF, noted that "this targeted approach will better protect those who are yet to be vaccinated while allowing those who have been fully vaccinated to continue with the current measures".
Singapore Fitness Alliance president Sean Tan, who is also a director of the True Group, said that while he was disappointed that measures had to be taken again, he understood the need for them.
He said: “It is disappointing that the actions of a few have resulted in ramifications for the fitness and F&B industry. But the tightening of measures were expected and necessary. It is also a step backwards for us as an industry especially when we have been looking forward to a general easing of restrictions.
“On the face of it, the change from five to two might not seem significant but the impact on members is much more difficult to quantify. Every time there is tightening, we have to rebuild confidence in members that it is still safe for them to come back and work out.”
Mr Tan allayed concerns over the implementation and allocation of manpower to check if a patron is fully vaccinated or not, by pointing to the Trace Together app.
He said: “Within the app, you can see if a person has been fully vaccinated or not. So in that sense, it could be quite seamless.”
Irving Henson, owner and director of The Pit Singapore concurred. He added: “Those whose second doses are not reflected in the app can bring the documents that were given to them when they got their jab (as a form of verification.”
However, Mr Tan noted that not all gym or studio owners would want to implement the five persons per group rule “because it is easier to stick to the two”.
“At True Group, we had reverted to groups of five earlier this week but now with this extra requirement about being fully vaccinated, we will need to reconsider,” he said. “The decision has to fall on individual gym owners.”
Mr Henson took a philosophical approach to the latest news.
“It’s not a frustration and we don’t see it as stop-start measures right now because we are still allowed to operate with restrictions in place,” he said. “It is a win for the industry. Covid is going to be around for a while. And if everyone does their part, we will be able to live with the ‘new normal’.”
Haiqal Zailani, 25, who works out at Body Fit Training (BFT) Tanjong Pagar added: “I think most (gym goers) will just be relieved that at least there’s no closure of gyms and fitness studios.
“At BFT, they opted to keep group sizes at two despite the announcement earlier this week so it doesn’t affect me much. But it’s good to see that the government is making exceptions for people who are vaccinated and it’s a sign that we are set to embrace a new normal moving forward.”
The MTF also said that for activities that involve children aged 12 years and below who are not vaccinated, the group size limit will remain at two, in classes of up to 30 persons. The class size of up to 30 persons is also subject to the venue's capacity limit, whichever is lower.
Outdoor activities (mask-on and mask-off) and indoor mask-on activities however, can continue in groups of no more than five persons, in classes of up to 50 persons including the instructor, subject to the venue's capacity limit, whichever is lower.
This is irrespective of vaccination or test status.
Sport Singapore, the national sports agency, will release more details on the changes, said the MTF.
With the stricter measures in place till Aug 8, the Government will extend the 10 per cent Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) for the affected businesses to support them.