Singapore imposes new COVID-19 restrictions amid surge in cases

Published on : Monday, May 17, 2021

Singapore has decided to impose strict COVID-19 restrictions once again in light of a new rise in COVID-19 cases. The latest restrictions has limited gatherings to two people and banned dine-in facilities. From May 16 to June 13, for a period of four weeks, gathering sizes as well as household visitors have been cut to a maximum of two people from five people. All food hubs are now allowed to do only takeaways and deliveries. Work from home is being considered as the default mode of work.

Fewer numbers of people will now be allowed in shopping malls and showrooms. A maximum of 100 people will be allowed at business meetings and live performances with pre-event testing, and up to 50 people without such testing. Operating capacity at attractions has been cut to 25% from the current permissible capacity of 50%. Wedding receptions has also been banned entirely.

The new restrictions arrives just weeks before the country was set to host the Shangri-La Dialogue, a high-profile annual defence summit that would have been the first big international event in Singapore since the start of the pandemic last year. The latest measures will also cause delay to the upcoming travel bubble with Hong Kong that was set to start on May 26. Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said in a statement that it is highly likely that Singapore may not meet the criteria for the arrangements to go through and that the government will make an announcement early next week on the bubble’s fate after reviewing local cases.

According to the terms of the agreement, the travel bubble will be closed for two weeks if the seven-day moving average of the daily number of unlinked local cases is more than five in either city. It’s currently just above 2 in Singapore and near zero in Hong Kong. On the other hand, the Singapore government has also decided to increase job support subsidies for food and beverage firms as well as waive rental for one month for hawker stall and coffee shop tenants.

The country is also stepping up to increase virus testing from May 15, and will start using rapid test kits for people with symptoms at health centres. Singapore was considered to be one of the best places in the world for containing the spread of the virus. The country reported months of single-digit or no locally transmitted daily infections after relaxing restrictions in December in a bid to open up the economy. Unfortunately, 71 locally transmitted cases, with 15 unlinked cases were reported in the past week prompting the government to adopt another aggressive approach.

On Thursday, officials recorded 24 infections with a new cluster of 46 cases at Changi Airport that is likely to involve the more easily transmissible B.1.617.2 coronavirus variant. A separate cluster at a Singaporean hospital includes the variant. Singapore’s Health Minister informed that the government is in a state of heightened alert. The government has also closed the airport terminals and connecting Jewel shopping mall to the public for two weeks from May 13, though it remains open for air travel. It has also been testing workers in the facilities. While the numbers in Singapore are far smaller than ongoing outbreaks in other countries but the latest flareup is a major setback by Singapore standards that had previously nearly eliminated the deadly virus domestically.

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