SINGAPORE: Dining in at F&B outlets will resume from Jun 21 in groups of up to two people instead of five as previously planned.
The group size of two will also apply to indoor fitness activities with masks off.
This was announced on Friday (Jun 18) as Singapore calibrates its COVID-19 reopening plans amid a persistent number of unlinked cases. Such infections have the potential to spark larger COVID-19 clusters such as the one around 115 Bukit Merah View Market and Food Centre, the Ministry of Health (MOH) noted.
As of Thursday, a total of 56 cases have been linked to the Bukit Merah View cluster since it was first identified on Jun 13.
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Following a drop in COVID-19 cases earlier this month, the Health Ministry announced on Jun 10 a two-step plan to move back to Phase 3 (Heightened Alert). Restrictions on dining-in were among the measures that were scheduled to be eased from Jun 21.
However, since the first step of the reopening, Singapore has seen a rise in infections.
“Regrettably, we are unable to proceed with our second stage of reopening in light of the latest outbreaks and big cluster that we have discovered in Bukit Merah, and now we have to adjust our plans,” said co-chair of the multi-ministerial task force Lawrence Wong at a press conference on Friday.
With the adjusted measures, groups of more than two people who are not from the same household will not be allowed to dine-in together at F&B outlets, even if they are split across multiple tables, said MOH in a separate media release.
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Responding to a question about whether members of the same household can eat out together in groups larger than two people, Mr Wong said: “We allow people from the same household to have multiple tables, but they have to make very clear that they are from the same household, that is not new.
“We’ve allowed that before and we will continue to do so. But if you are not from the same household, then you cannot go and do multiple bookings or have multiple tables, so the same rules that previously applied will continue to apply.”
This means that a group of six household members, for instance, will not be able to sit together as a table of six, Mr Wong stressed.
Wedding receptions will also not be allowed until mid-July, said MOH, adding that this is because they are higher-risk activities where guests tend to socialise more and over a longer period of time.
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RAPID TESTING, GROUP SIZES MAY GO UP TO 5 IN MID-JULY
COVID-19 rapid testing for employees in higher-risk settings such as F&B outlets will be ramped up to give Singapore “greater assurance” to open up further, “barring unforeseen circumstances and developments in the pandemic”, said co-chair of the task force Gan Kim Yong.
Authorities expect a regular rapid testing regime to be in place by around mid-July.
That is when group sizes for higher-risk activities may be allowed to go up to five people, Mr Gan said.
“This is a more cautious approach to minimise the risk of spikes in cases and the formation of large clusters,” he added. “But we are mindful that the F&B sector will continue to need help, and we will support them as we further roll back some of the safe distancing measures next Monday.”
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Responding to a question about the rapid testing, Mr Wong said the task force would not rule out providing the test kits at a subsidised or lower price.
“We will make these test kits available for free to the establishments over the next three months. We want to get the processes started, and that’s why… all the agencies will be reaching out to the different establishments in these higher-risk settings … to get them started on this model of an employer-supervised self-swab system,” he added.
At F&B establishments, recorded music will not be allowed, to prevent the risk of transmission from customers talking loudly, said MOH.
There should also be safe distancing of at least 1m between groups of diners, and customers must keep their masks on at all times except when eating or drinking.
Gyms and fitness studios can resume indoor activities without masks from Jun 21 – in group sizes of up to two people and in classes of up to 30 people including the instructor.
As previously announced, there should be safe distancing of at least 2m between individuals and 3m between groups.
Mask-on activities and outdoor mask-off sports or exercise activities can continue in groups of no more than five people and in classes of up to 30 people including the instructor, said the Health Ministry, adding that SportSG will release more details.
“We do expect the number of COVID cases to go up … especially in the weeks that follow,” said Mr Gan. “This is something we are prepared for, but we must continue to stay vigilant and abide by safe management measures.”
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