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There could be change in 5-person limit on gatherings: Gan Kim Yong tells Parliament

Any new moves will depend on whether the people can work together and keep their guard up

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Singapore — Parliament heard on Monday (Oct 5) about possible easing of safety protocols as the country moves into Phase 3 of the easing of Circuit Breaker measures.

These included possible changing of the 5-person limit for social gatherings. Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said that, “if all of us continue to work together and keep our guard up even as more activities resume, we will be able to keep the pandemic under control, and progress towards further opening up our economy and society steadily”.

Over the past few months, the country has been slowly moving into lifting certain Covid-19 safety restrictions, which is why the question was brought up about whether the 5-person rule for social gatherings would remain.

Mr Gan said that lessening these restrictions would allow bigger groups of families or friends to meet up and enjoy a meal together.

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He said: “We are particularly concerned about dining, as we need to remove our masks so as to eat and drink, but we tend to also talk at the same time. The risk is considerably higher than activities which we can keep our masks on and maintain a safe distance.”

He also mentioned that the country has managed to safely implement a 50 per cent return to office for many work from home (WFH) employees. This means that while they spend half the week in the office, they still do half their work from home. He shared that in order to maintain safety in the workplace, as well as minimise crowding, only 50 per cent of employees can be in the workplace at the same time.

In terms of certain work-related activities and events such as seminars, meetings and conferences, they will now be allowed to resume with a 50-person limit. This will help reduce the risk of transmission between attendees as well.

Other gatherings such as weddings and religious activities are allowed to have a maximum of 100 people, but they will be required to maintain multiple zones or time slots that will allow only 50 people in order to lessen the chance of transmission.

Meanwhile, the authorities have also allowed particular physical exercise classes in common spaces, higher capacity of people in cinemas, and other leisure activities like visiting the Bird Park or Singapore Zoo.

While libraries and museums have also been reopened, other activities like live performances are still being trialled in smaller groups in order to observe if they can be resumed safely.

According to Mr Gan, after what has been observed in other countries, the Government has made it a point to be extra careful about reopening society and maintaining strict safety protocols so as to curtail the chances of a resurgence in Covid-19 infections.

“When restrictions are lifted prematurely, or too hastily, a resurgence of cases may occur, resulting in partial reimposition of restrictions. On the other hand, it is not sustainable to maintain tight restrictions for a prolonged period, which will severely impact our economy and our lives.”

Although the country is generally moving into opening up the economy completely, it must move at a slow pace to ensure that the number of any new infections remains low.

Mr Gan explained: “The low number of community cases currently is not accidental but has come about due to our collective hard work and sacrifices. Even as we move towards Phase 3, the new normal will be different from what we were used to in the pre-Covid days.”

“As overseas travel restrictions are progressively eased and more activities resume, it has become even more critical that each of us plays our part to exercise social responsibility and adhere to the safe management measures, in order to keep our family and friends safe,” he added.

The Multi-Ministry Task Force will share more information and details with the public as the country moves into Phase 3.

See the video of Mr Gan speaking here. /TISG

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