Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong just announced that the circuit breaker, which started on April 7, will extend for four weeks beyond May 4. It will now end on June 1, 2020. To date, Singapore has more than 9,125 cases.
The circuit breaker was put in place to curb the community spread of Covid-19. Although there has been a decline in community spread, which means the circuit breaker measures are working. However, some community cases remain unlinked.
In his speech, PM Lee advises going out of the house only for essential activities, such as exercising and grocery shopping, and to do so alone.
While community numbers has declined, the number of cases in foreign worker dormitories continue to grow. This is partly because aggressive testing has been done in dormitories, not only for those who show symptoms, but also for asymptomatic cases.
With the new tightened measures, foreign workers who reside in dormitories will not be allowed to go out to work. Those who work in essential services will be housed separately.
PM Lee said, “Some are cleaning the HDB blocks or hawker centres, others are maintaining key infrastructure like our broadband networks. If these workers move in and out of dorms, they become potential channels for cross infection in both directions. Hence we are housing these essential workers separately. We are also testing them to make sure that they are healthy, and to pick up any infections early.”
In addition to the previous measures, the government have advised tighter measures in the next two weeks, including closing more companies that are in essential services. Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said the number of companies that will open will be down by 5%, and this includes services such as F&B.
Will the circuit breaker be lifted anytime soon? PM Lee says three things have to happen for us to exit the circuit breaker.
- “We must open up incrementally, in small steps, making sure that we are safe each step of the way.”
- “We need to scale up testing for COVID-19 substantially, so that we can quickly detect any new cases that pop up. This we are progressively doing, not only by procuring test kits and equipment from other countries, but also by developing and manufacturing our own test kits.”
- “We will need to make full use of information technology, IT, so that when we discover COVID-19 cases, we can trace more efficiently where they have been, and whom they have been in contact with. We have the TraceTogether app, and we are currently developing other apps for this purpose. For these apps to work, we will need everyone’s cooperation to install and use these apps, like what the South Koreans have done. There will be some privacy concerns, but we will have to weigh these against the benefits of being able to exit from the circuit breaker and stay open safely.”
So what constitutes flouting safe-distancing/circuit breaker measures? We know that we can’t meet friends outside, but can we even go out? Here are the answers to a few common questions about the circuit breaker.
CAN I BUY BUBBLE TEA AT THE STORES?
No, as of April 21, 11.59pm, all stores that sell only beverages (including bubble tea stores), confectionaries and packaged snacks will be closed. In addition, barbershops will also be closed during this period.
CAN I GO TO THE BEACH?
No. All beaches in Singapore are now closed in order to curb the spread of Covid-19 and to prevent people from gathering in groups. Areas in some parks have also been closed for the same reason.
I WORK IN AN ESSENTIAL SERVICE. CAN I JALAN-JALAN AFTER WORK SINCE I’M ALREADY OUT OF THE HOUSE?
No. Whether you work in essential services, a key economic sector or are working from home, you shouldn’t be loitering around outside your home or workplace after work. Buy what you need to (food, groceries) and head home. Last weekend, the Ministry of Manpower revoked the work pass of an essential service worker after he loitered “at various places for an extended period of time” after finishing his meal instead of going back to his place of residence. Fines have also been issued to work pass holders who breached circuit breaker measures, such as exercising in groups and gathering in public places.
CAN I SIT ON THE SEATS AT THE HAWKER CENTRE TO WAIT FOR MY FOOD?
Yes, you can. However, practise safe-distancing and don’t sit on demarcated areas (usually with a sticker or X pasted on). Leave immediately after you’ve received your order. Also, FYI, hawkers are allowed to eat outside their stalls, so don’t anyhow take their photos to make them viral although they’re not flouting the regulations.
DO I HAVE TO WEAR A MASK EVERYWHERE I GO?
You are advised to wear a mask when stepping out of the house. More importantly, you are required to wear a mask when taking public transportation and going to the supermarkets, wet markets and shopping centres. If you fail to comply, you will be fined $300 for your first offence.
I DON’T LIKE EXERCISING ALONE. CAN I EXERCISE WITH SOMEONE ELSE?
Although, previously, you’re allowed to exercise with other people in the same household, you are now advised to exercise alone and only in your neighbourhood. Planning to exercise at home? There are apps to guide you to your fitness goals.
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CAN I VISIT MY FRIEND/FAMILY MEMBER WHO IS IN A HOSPITAL?
No, you can’t, unless you are one of the registered caregivers. Even then, you are only allowed to visit if the patient meets the criteria set by the hospital. For Tan Tock Seng Hospital, the patient has to be “patients with intensive care needs or who require special assistance”. Out of the two caregivers, only one is allowed to visit at a time.
MY GRANDMOTHER WANTS TO GO TO THE WET MARKET. IS SHE NOT ALLOWED TO GO OUT?
While there is no law that says she should not leave her house, bear in mind that the elderly have weaker immune systems and are more vulnerable to illnesses. Advise her not to go out and do marketing on her behalf. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has appealed to all elderlies to remain home during this period. If she insists on doing marketing, you are allowed to go with her if your NRIC number belongs to the same group as hers (even/odd).
CAN I STILL VISIT MY ELDERLY GRANDPARENTS TO HELP THEM WITH THEIR DAILY NEEDS?
Yes, you can. The Health Ministry has disallowed social gatherings, such as private parties and social get-togethers with friends and relatives.
However, an exception has been made: Individuals can still visit family members to help with their daily needs, such as caring for elderly parents.
I WANT TO VISIT THE WET MARKET TO BUY MY ESSENTIALS. WHEN AND HOW OFTEN SHOULD I GO?
Go once a week; there is no need to frequent the market every day or even once every few days.
Visit the market on weekdays if possible, when the crowd is likely to be around 30 per cent smaller than on weekends. If you must go on the weekend, make an effort to wake up early to avoid the peak period from 7.30am to 10am.
Vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, should avoid visiting the markets altogether, especially on weekends. Other members of the household or neighbours should lend a helping hand and try to do the buying on their behalf.
If you’re visiting a supermarket, be sure to check out this website SpaceOut.gov.sg to make sure it’s not crowded before making your way there.
Following tightened measures, entry restrictions will be imposed to avoid overcrowding. Four of the bigger markets will do so by allowing entrance according to NRIC numbers. People whose NRIC numbers end with an odd number will go on odd dates, while those with even numbers can go on even dates.
I RECEIVE HELP FROM CHARITY AND SOCIAL SERVICES. WILL THESE BE ALLOWED TO CONTINUE?
Yes. Organisations and groups which distribute essential aid to the vulnerable may continue their activities. But they are strongly encouraged to limit their activities to critical cases in need of urgent aid and essential supplies, and to take necessary precautions.
For non-urgent cases, these organisations are encouraged to engage recipients remotely – such as through phone calls, messages and video conferences.
They should also leave a number behind, just in case recipients need urgent help.
But if face-to-face interaction is necessary, organisations should try to limit the number of staff present, the frequency and duration of interactions and adhere to safe distancing of 1m.
They must not involve seniors as volunteers, and aid to seniors should be delivered to their homes.
Aid distribution should only be to known recipients, and door-to-door outreach to new recipients should be avoided.
If monetary aid is given, it should be via electronic means whenever possible. Cash can also be delivered together with food rations.
WE CAN GO TO OPEN SPACES SUCH AS PARKS. CAN I BOOK A BARBECUE PIT WITH MY IMMEDIATE FAMILY TO THE PLAYGROUND?
Unfortunately, you cannot. The National Parks Board (NParks) has suspended bookings for events and barbecue pits, and camping permits for parks under its care. Playgrounds, fitness corners and dog runs in parks managed by NParks have also been closed to allow for safe distancing and prevent groups from gathering.
WITH THE LONG WEEKEND ROUND THE CORNER, IS IT ADVISABLE TO TAKE MY IMMEDIATE FAMILY OUT TO PLACES SUCH AS BUKIT TIMAH NATURE RESERVE?
You should visit a park near you to minimise travelling. Also check visitorship levels at website safedistparks.nparks.gov.sg before heading down.
If the park is too crowded, please do not go there. Instead, choose a less crowded green space near you where you can exercise safely.
NParks will be actively monitoring visitorship at popular areas such as Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and the TreeTop Walk, and may temporarily close them when necessary to allow for safe distancing.
With the tightened circuit breaker measures, you’re advised to exercise within your neighbourhood and to do so alone.
HOW LONG SHOULD I SPEND AT THE PARK?
You should return home once you are done with your exercise, and always practise safe distancing. Gathering in groups is not permitted – this means no picnics, no parties.
You also cannot meet your friends there. Go alone or with your immediate family members.
If you are on leave of absence or are unwell, please do not visit the parks. See a doctor immediately and stay home.
Around 1,000 NParks staff will be enforcing safe distancing measures at its parks and nature reserves, including park connectors, Pulau Ubin as well as parks managed by town councils.
All in all, you should use your common sense: To protect the safety of yourself and your loved ones, as much as possible, stay home.
More from CLEO:
You Can Now Check How Crowded Malls And Parks In Singapore Are Before Heading Out
Underrated Parks In Singapore To Visit To Avoid Crowds And Practise Safe Distancing
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WHAT THE LAW SAYS
Under the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act, people should stay home until Jun 1 and not go out unless they need to buy food or essential items, see a doctor, or are working in essential services. If they go out, they must keep a distance of 1m from others, even in open spaces, among other measures.
If a person is found in breach of these measures, an enforcement officer will take down his or her particulars and issue a written stern warning. Subsequent offences will result in a composition fine or prosecution. The police may also be contacted for follow-up action.
If convicted, first-time offenders can face a fine of up to $10,000, imprisonment of up to six months, or both. Second-time offenders can be fined up to $20,000, jailed up to 12 months, or face both penalties.
Images: Jonathan Choo / ST Photo, Unsplash
Text: Clara Chong / The Straits Times / April 2020, Hidayah Idris
Additional text: Sally Manik