SINGAPORE (May 28): 'Phase two' of Singapore’s post-circuit breaker reopening, could start before the end of June, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said on Thursday.

However, this would depend on the number of community transmissions in the first two weeks of June, which also marks ‘phase one’ of reopening.

See also: Singapore prepares for a 'new normal' after Jun 1 with a three phase approach

Some 75% of the economy can resume operations in ‘phase one’, which will commence on June 2. Following this, the taskforce says it will monitor the situation to ascertain if the republic is ready for ‘phase two’.

“If the community transmission – if infection rates over these two weeks remain low and stable – then we will decide by the middle of June on whether we want to take the next step to move to Phase 2; and that means Phase 2 could happen before the end of June,” said Wong who is co-chair of the Covid-19 Multi-ministry taskforce.

Phase 2 will see the resumption of a wider range of activities, with nearly the entire economy being allowed to resume operations. Services that will be allowed to commence include: retail shops, consumer services and dining in at food and beverage outlets at a five person per group cap.

Meanwhile, sports facilities and public venues will reopen while social interactions and family visits will be permitted at a cap of five people per group.

A more cautious approach will be adopted for activities involving large groups of people gathering in enclosed spaces. These include museums, clubs, parks, libraries and theatres.

"All of these venues, based on our experience and overseas experience, have been instances where there have been cases of transmissions in such settings, and so we want to take a more cautious approach for activities in these areas to resume," he said.

To this end, he said the taskforce will discuss with businesses and organisations across different settings on the safeguards and management measures needed for these premises.

"Subject to these being in place, we will then discuss with the entities on the exact timing of when they can resume activities within Phase 2. So, they may not all resume at the start of Phase 2, but if they have the safeguards and precautions in place, they can resume later but still within Phase 2."

Earlier, the taskforce had outlined that Singapore's second phase of reopening will come at least four weeks after the circuit breaker ends on June 2. It mentioned the transition could take place earlier, depending on prevailing infection levels.

Starting Jun 2, schools will reopen and some workplaces will be allowed to resume onsite operations.

Even so, the taskforce urged Singaporeans to remain vigilant and practice safe management to reduce their chances of contracting the coronavirus. As at 12pm on Thursday, there were 373 new Covid-19 infections in Singapore, bringing the total case count here to 33,249. The bulk of the new cases are among migrant workers living in dormitories, and there were no Singaporean or permanent residents patients.

Easing travel restrictions

On an external front, the taskforce highlighted that the government is in touch with foreign counterparts to establish travel bubbles with countries where the virus is under control. 

For this, both countries will have to implement testing regimes such as requiring travelers to be tested before and after their flight, said Wong.

However, he stressed that such ‘green lane’ arrangements will only be made for essential travel, particularly for businesses that require their employees to travel for work. This is in a bid to protect jobs and enable the economy to restart activities, Wong elaborated. 

Other non-essential travel may just have to wait. “Having these arrangement does not mean that we will allow mass market travel which I think will take a lot longer to resume, not just in Singapore, but also internationally,” said Wong.