Business & Economy Lawrence Wong: Economy could fully reopen sooner than expected

Lawrence Wong: Economy could fully reopen sooner than expected

"Stay vigilant and socially responsible, then we can keep infection low, and we can move to Phase 2 before the end of the month"

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Singapore — If no surge in Covid-19 cases occurs after circuit breaker restrictions begin to be lifted on June 2, the country’s economy could fully reopen sooner than expected, according to National Development Minister Lawrence Wong.

Mr Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force on the Covid-19 crisis with Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, spoke at a virtual media conference on Thursday (May 28).

He said that while the first phase of relaxing restrictions was intended to last four weeks, this may be shortened if the infection rate will stay “low and stable” in the first two weeks of June.

“If all goes well, phase two can indeed proceed before the end of June,” he added.

The minister said: “We thought it would be useful to share with Singaporeans, to give everyone a clearer sense of what to expect over the coming weeks.”

In a Facebook post on Friday (May 29), Mr Wong wrote that for Phase 1, “we will have about 75% of the economy restarting operations”, explaining that while some people will be going back to work, many will keep on working at home. Moreover, students are going back to school during Phase 1 as well.

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For Phase 2, he wrote: “We can expect almost the entire economy to re-open.” The activities allowed during this phase are the operation of retail shops and consumer services, dining at restaurants and hawker centres, social interactions and family visits (with a maximum of five people), as well as the opening of outdoor sports and public facilities.

Activities held at “higher risk settings” such as museums, libraries, cinemas, theatres, religious services, bars, clubs, discos and karaoke outlets will not be allowable quite yet, added Mr Wong. Resuming these activities are “subject to appropriate safeguards being in place”, which will be discussed later on. He added that these may open at a later part of Phase 2.

At the media conference, Mr Gan answered a question on whether there was a particular number of infections that was the targeted baseline before the authorities decide to move on to the next phase.

He said that it isn’t “just a numbers game”, and that the decision to ease more restrictions also depends on the rates of infections, whether infections were occurring within high-risk groups, and the nature of infection clusters.

<Roadmap Ahead to Phase 2>The Taskforce has set out the overall framework for resuming activities in three phases….

Posted by Lawrence Wong on Thursday, May 28, 2020

Mr Wong also mentioned that the authorities would keep close track of the situation during Phase 1.

“We will monitor the situation closely. If infection rates remain low and stable over the subsequent two weeks, then we will decide by the middle of June to move to the next phase. This means that Phase 2 could take place before the end of the month.”

Mr Wong added, however, that the projected timeline for reopening is “not cast in stone, as the situation is uncertain and fluid”. He said the people have a large part to play with how quickly restrictions are relaxed and the country opens, and warned the public against “acting recklessly and breaching the rules when the circuit breaker ends”.

He added: “But if we all stay vigilant and socially responsible, then we can keep infection low, and we can move to Phase 2 before the end of the month.” /TISG

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