SINGAPORE: Working from home will be the default for employees able to do so as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Singapore, the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced on Friday (Sep 24).
This directive, which will take effect from Sep 27 to Oct 24, marks a tightening of measures. Previously a maximum of 50 per cent of employees who are able to work from home were allowed to be at the workplace at any point in time.
During this period, the 10-day "snap" work-from-home regime for when COVID-19 cases are detected at the workplace will be suspended, said MOH in a press release.
"There should continue to be no cross-deployment of workers to multiple worksites for those who need to go into worksites to work. Social gatherings at the workplace will continue to be disallowed. Employers should continue to implement flexible working hours and stagger the start times of employees who need to return to the workplace," said MOH.
The ministry noted that employees, contractors, and vendors who are unable to work from home are "strongly encouraged" to self-test weekly via an antigen rapid test (ART) to keep infected employees from going to work and keep their workplace safe.
"Those who are able to work from home but need to return to the workplace for ad-hoc reasons may do so after testing negative via ART before returning onsite," added MOH.
ENHANCED SUPPORT MEASURES FOR AFFECTED SECTORS
To help sectors that will be "significantly affected" by the tightened measures, the Government will enhance the Jobs Support Scheme support to 25 per cent from Sep 27 to Oct 24.
These sectors include food and beverage, retail, cinemas, tourism, gyms and fitness studios.
The support measures will cost a total of S$650 million, which will be funded from the "higher than expected revenues collected to date", MOH said.
"There will be no further draw on past reserves."
As part of these measures, a two-week rental waiver will be given to qualifying tenants on Government-owned commercial properties.
Cooked food and market stallholders in centres managed by the National Environment Agency (NEA) or its appointed operators will receive this as well.
Similarly, qualifying tenant-occupiers and owner-occupiers of privately-owned commercial properties will receive a two-week rental relief cash payout under the Rental Support Scheme.
"These will offset rent for half the duration of the stabilisation phase," the ministry said.
The Government will also extend the COVID-19 Driver Relief Fund payout to support taxi and private hire car drivers. They will receive S$10 and S$5 per vehicle per day in October and November respectively.
SAFE MANAGEMENT MEASURES "ESSENTIAL"
MOH also noted that vaccination-differentiated safe management measures, mask wearing, and proper distancing remain "essential" to ensure that large events can proceed safely for attendees.
Event sizes and capacity limits for congregational and other worship services, cinemas, MICE, live performances, spectator sport events will remain at up to 1,000 attendees if all are fully vaccinated.
Otherwise, only up to 50 attendees will be allowed without pre-event testing (PET).
"The concession for children aged 12 years and below, who cannot yet be vaccinated, will also apply for these events. Such unvaccinated children may be included in a group of up to two persons if the child is from the same household," said MOH.
The ministry noted that there will be no change to measures related to marriage solemnisations, which are allowed to continue, with seating in groups of up to 2 persons, if all are fully vaccinated.
Home solemnisations will also continue to be allowed with up to 10 attendees. Otherwise, only up to 50 attendees will be allowed without PET.
"We acknowledge that wedding couples have faced significant uncertainties over the past few months. Hence, as a special concession, wedding receptions may be allowed to continue with up to 250 attendees if all are fully vaccinated, and with a group size of up to 5 persons per table," added MOH.
"All wedding guests must strictly abide by the safe management measures, and in particular maintain social distancing and avoid mingling with others beyond their own table. Given their higher vulnerability, we also strongly discourage unvaccinated individuals and the elderly from attending such events, as PET only reduces their risk to others but not the risk to themselves."