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SINGAPORE (June 15): Singapore will move to phase two of its reopening after midnight this Thursday, as restrictions will be eased to allow more businesses and social activities to resume, the Covid-19 multi-ministry taskforce said on Monday.

“Community infection rates have remained generally stable despite the increase in workplace activity in Phase 1 of re-opening,” said health minister Gan Kim Yong.

“The incidence of cases in migrant worker dormitories has also declined and there are no new large clusters emerging,” he added.

As at 12pm on Monday, Singapore reported 214 infections of Covid-19, bringing the total case count here to 40,818. Of these, a vast majority is among migrant workers residing in dormitories, the health ministry noted. Many of these cases were identified through active testing, the taskforce elaborated.

The transition to Phase 2 is taking place amid clearer signs of an impending general election, with a well-worn pattern of senior civil servants resigning, presumably so that they can be fielded as candidates.

Starting June 19, people will be allowed to gather socially in groups of up to five persons, with a 1 metre safe distance between individuals. Households will also be allowed to receive visitors with a five-person limit at any point in time.

Retail businesses will be allowed to resume operations, while dining-in at restaurants and hawker centers will permitted at a limit of five people per table. Family groups larger than five will have to be split.

However, ‘live’ music as well as television and video screenings still cannot be allowed, thereby prolonging the pain felt by certain quarters of the nightlife industry.

Larger public venues with high human traffic such as malls and standalone retail outlets will be subject to capacity limits. As such, operators will be required to prevent crowds or long queues from building up within and in the immediate vicinity of their premises, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said in a statement

Other services such as personal health and wellness and home-based services like private tuition, enrichment or piano lessons will also be allowed to resume. However, in-person lessons for singing and voice training will not be permitted to resume, as a precaution to reduce the spread of droplets.

Healthcare services – including eldercare services in the community, individual health screening and aesthetic services, will also resume. Face-to-face visitations to eldercare residential facilities such as nursing homes, welfare homes, sheltered homes and adult disability homes, will be allowed.

Meanwhile parks, playgrounds, beaches, fields, stadiums, swimming complexes, sports halls, gyms, fitness studios and bowling centres will be allowed to open.

Additionally, schools will fully reopen with all students returning daily from June 29. Currently, students in primary and secondary school, save those in graduating cohorts, alternate between going to school and having home-based lessons. 

Even as more businesses resume operations, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said that working from home or telecommuting will remain the “default setting”. 

"I think it's in the interest of all businesses (to allow telecommuting). While we allow them to reopen in phase two, they should take the safe management practices very seriously and continue to have employees work from home to the maximum extent,” said Wong, who is also co-chair of the taskforce.

For now, the taskforce noted that higher-risk activities, including religious services, congregations, conferences and trade fairs will not yet be allowed, as such settings can spawn large clusters of infections. These activities are slated to resume in phase three.

So far, the taskforce has not announced a date for the start of phase three, and stressed that phase two will be a process. In this time, they noted that distancing principles must be adhered to and masks will remain a must when people head outdoors.

Said MOH’s Director of Medical Services Kenneth Mak, "We have to bear in mind that even as we open up in phase two, we need to further strengthen individual responsibility and discipline, so that we can keep the number of cases low despite the increase in interactions between individuals."

“By limiting close contact among individuals, while maintaining hygiene and safe management principles, we will be able to resume more activities without substantially raising the risk of new clusters of infections,” added Gan.

Wong chimed in saying, phase two should not be treated as a signal that “we can relax we can all let our guard down”.

"I think if we were to take that kind of a mindset and attitude, it will be very easy for Phase 2 to end up with a surge in cases and potentially down the road, the likelihood of having to reintroduce restrictions."

“We have come a long way,” Gan emphasises as he appealed to Singaporeans to adhere to the rules.

"I'm sure people will be thinking of how we can get about the rules. But I must say, you can fool the rules, but you cannot fool the virus. If you violate the rules, the virus will get to you,” he reiterated.