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Here’s how Singapore’s COVID-19 measures will change from Mar 29

 Here’s how Singapore’s COVID-19 measures will change from Mar 29

File photo of a group of six diners eating at Tiong Bahru Market. (Photo: Calvin Oh)

SINGAPORE: Singapore will see its most significant easing of measures in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic from Tuesday (Mar 29). 

For two years, masks were the norm - indoors, outdoors, even during exercise.

As the number of COVID-19 cases surged and eased, permitted group sizes went from eight people to five and then two, and was most recently at five again.

At some points, children could not go to school and residents mostly worked from home.

Last week, however, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the easing of a raft of measures in “a major step towards living with COVID-19”, but stopped short of a complete opening up. 

From tomorrow, people will be able to remove their masks when outdoors. Individuals can gather and dine-in at restaurants in groups of up to 10 people. More people will see their colleagues in the office, and live performances will return. 

“Resume more normal lives, enjoy larger gatherings of family and friends, go outdoors without masks, or reunite with loved ones abroad. But do not throw all caution to the wind,” said Mr Lee in his speech last week. 

Here’s a recap of what will change from tomorrow: 

1. Wearing a mask outdoors will be optional

Wearing a mask indoors will still be required. This refers to all buildings or places with clearly defined entrances or exits, said the Ministry of Health (MOH). 

For example, people will have to wear masks in office buildings, shopping malls, on public transport and in classrooms. 

Hawker centres, coffee shops, wet markets and other HDB retail shops or shophouses also count as indoor spaces. 

Places that are sheltered but with open access will generally be regarded as outdoor areas. These include HDB void decks, bus stops, open-air sheltered walkways and bridges, as well as parks, fields and nature trails.

The 1m safe distancing rule will still be required in all mask-off environments. 

2. Group sizes for social gatherings doubled from five to 10 people

Individuals can gather in groups of up to 10 people, up from five previously. The largest group size permitted in previous iterations of safe-management measures was eight people. 

This means that each household can receive up to 10 visitors at a time. Groups of 10 vaccinated people will also be allowed to dine in at food and beverage outlets. 

This also applies to hawker centres and coffee shops where full checks on vaccination-differentiated safe management measures (VDS) are implemented at their entrances, said MOH. 

To ease the operational burden for F&B operators, all establishments will be allowed to seat smaller groups of up to five fully vaccinated persons without the need for full VDS checks at their entrance. 

Instead, random spot checks will be done to ensure that the vaccinated diners-only rule is adhered to, said the Health Ministry.

At F&B spots, the current restriction on the sale and consumption of alcohol after 10.30pm will be lifted from Mar 29. Live performances will also be allowed to resume at all venues. 

Those involved in the performances will have to comply with the prevailing safe management measures such as keeping to a group size of 10.

Screening of live broadcast programmes and recorded entertainment in F&B establishments will be allowed again.

3. Up to 75% of employees who are able to work from home can return to the workplace 

Get ready to see more of your colleagues (or your boss) back in the office. Up to 75 per cent of employees who are able to work from home will be allowed to return to the workplace from Mar 29, up from the current limit of 50 per cent. 

The rules for social gatherings in workplaces will be the same as that of social settings, as long as the general group size and masking rules are in place. 

Workers in all sectors will also no longer need to undergo rostered routine testing from Mar 29. 

MOH had already from Feb 18 narrowed rostered routine testing requirements to only workers in healthcare, eldercare and those who work with children below five, as well as some essential service workers.

Previously, the requirement applied to groups such as border frontline workers, transport workers, dormitory-dwelling workers, service industry employees, as well as those working with children under 12.

With this, government subsidies provided to companies for rostered routine testing will also come to an end, said MOH. 

Larger-scale social gatherings and events like gala dinners, corporate dinner-and-dance events, birthday celebrations and anniversaries will also be allowed to resume. 

There should be no more than 10 people per table and a safe distance of 1m between tables. 

4. Singapore to reopen its borders to all fully vaccinated travellers from Apr 1 

In doing so, all existing vaccinated travel lanes and unilateral opening arrangements will be removed, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore announced last week. 

Singapore will transition to a new simplified vaccinated travel framework where countries and regions will be classified into two categories - general travel or the restricted category.

All fully vaccinated travellers, as well as children aged 12 and below, will be able to enter Singapore with just a pre-departure COVID-19 test from 11.59pm on Mar 31.

They will no longer need to apply for entry approvals or take designated VTL transport to enter Singapore quarantine-free. The quotas on the number of daily arrivals will also be lifted. 

While travellers will still need to take a pre-departure test within two days before departure for Singapore, they will not need to serve a stay-home notice or undergo an unsupervised antigen rapid test (ART) after arriving in Singapore.

Long-term pass-holders and short-term visitors aged 13 and above who are not fully vaccinated will generally not be allowed to enter Singapore, with a few exceptions. This includes long-term pass-holders who are medically ineligible for vaccines as well as those who have valid entry approval such as compassionate reasons.

For this group, they will be required to take a pre-departure test within two days before departure for Singapore, undergo a seven-day stay-home notice, and take a polymerase chain reaction test after their isolation period.

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Source: CNA/hw