SINGAPORE (May 19): Singapore’s economy will reopen gradually across three phases once its circuit breaker measures restricting non-essential activities ends on Jun 1.

This ‘careful’ and ‘calibrated’ easing serves to avoid a flaring up of Covid-19 infections, the Covid-19 multi-ministry taskforce said at a press conference on Tuesday.

“I know Singaporeans will be disappointed,” acknowledged National Development Minister and co-chair of the taskforce, Lawrence Wong.

“Many have been hoping that after the circuit breaker, they will be able to go out freely to meet their families and relatives and even dine together. Unfortunately, all of these activities will have to wait,” he stressed.

Starting Jun 2, Singapore will embark on phase one or a ‘safe reopening’. This will see more employers- particularly from the manufacturing and professional services sectors that require specialised machinery or those requiring legal documentation being allowed to re-open.

Other services such as specialist healthcare, allied health, motor vehicle servicing, air-conditioner servicing and basic pet services will also resume. 

Meanwhile, pre-schools will re-open in stages with pupils in Kindergarten 1 and 2 returning on Jun 2, Nursery 1 and 2 from Jun 8 and playgroup children from Jun 10. 

Primary and secondary schools will resume in-person lessons with a weekly rotation scheme for different levels over a four-week period. Students from graduating cohorts conversely, will attend school daily.

Collectively, the resumption of these services will bring the daily commuting workforce to about a third, up from the current 17%. 

Factors leading to the consideration of these sectors include : the health and well-being of workers being taken care of, a controlled environment allowing for a lower-risk of transmission and their criticality to economic linkages domestically and domestically, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing.

Still the taskforce stressed a need for businesses to continue “maximum work-from-home arrangements” even after Jun 2.

Businesses that remain shuttered can expect to receive support from the government, noted Wong. Further details will be announced by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat at Singapore’s fourth budget for the year on May 26. 

On a social front, places of worship will be opened for private worship while visitations of parents or grandparents will be allowed. Visits will be limited to one per day with a maximum of two visitors who should be from the same household.  

In this time, seniors are advised to stay home as much as possible and should not be travelling to visit their children, so as not to expose themselves.

Phase one is expected to span at least four weeks, observes Health Minister and chairman of the Covid-19 taskforce, Gan Kim Yong.

"We will need to, by and large, observe two periods of incubation - each period of incubation is 14 days. So minimally we will have to look at 28 days before we think about additional relaxation," he added.

“If community transmission rates can remain low, and the situation remains under control over the next few weeks, we can then move into phase two of safe transition with a gradual resumption of more activities”.

Under phase two the city state will focus on a ‘safe transition’ across several steps, which Gan estimates to span across several months. 

Here, more businesses such as tuition and enrichment centres, gyms and fitness studios will be allowed to reopen, subject to safe-management measures. Still, the taskforce urged employees who can work from home to continue to do so.

Depending on the number of Covid-19 cases, measures will be furthered eased to the third phase aimed at making Singapore a “safe nation”. 

Getting to this state of a new normal “is less certain. It will involve months, it will not be just weeks. It may take three months, six months. It may take longer depending on how the situation evolves," warned Gan.

He added that the republic will reach this 'new normal' when a Covid-19 vaccine is found.

Until then, the phase will allow social, cultural, religious and business gatherings, with limits put in place on the gathering size.

Even as Singapore looks to resuming services, Gan cautioned that the phases could well be rolled back if the outbreak flares up again.

"As we being to resume more activities, we do expect to see a rise in daily cases. If we can continue to keep the situation under control then we can reopen progressively," he said.

See also: Phase two of Singapore's re-opening to be decided in mid-June: Minister Wong