COVID-19: What to Expect As We Move Towards Phase 3
The Covid-19 pandemic has challenged us to do things differently and it has not been easy for everyone. With the re-opening of the economy after a two months Circuit Breaker measure was put in place in April to May 2020, we should remain cautious but optimistic.
As the number of Covid-19 cases comes under control in Singapore, we have also seen the economy slowly picking up, and crowds have been returning to malls, parks and neighbourhood areas. Nevertheless, with more activities progressively resuming, testing and tracing efforts will continue to scale up as we move into Phase 3, while everyone adheres to safe management practices.
Phase 3 ≠ Pre-COVID Times
It is important to bear in mind that Phase 3 is not a return to pre-Covid status. With the introduction of key enablers such as safe management measures, testing and digital contact tracing tools, more activities can gradually resume under Phase 3. However, until the coronavirus is under control with a legit vaccine available widely, we will most likely stay in Phase 3 for a potentially long period of time.
Key Enablers for Phase 3
- Safe Management Measures
To ensure that the number of Covid-19 cases in Singapore does not spike after the economy opens up (as seen in other countries like South Korea), we will have to continue with practicing safe distancing to minimise interactions between groups, social responsibility such as mask-wearing and personal hygiene, as well as keeping to small group sizes during gatherings, both in public spaces and visitors at home.
- Pre-Event Testing
The Multi-Ministry Taskforce (MMTF) is piloting the use of pre-event testing for larger-scale and higher-risk activities, so as to allow more activities to resume safely as we move towards Phase 3.
Events such as wedding receptions, live performances and sports events that are scheduled to happen from mid-October to December 2020 will see the pre-event testing taking place. The Ministry of Health (MOH) will assess with feedback from the events to finetune the processes.
- Digital Contact Tracing Tools
Besides the use of SafeEntry to detect the Covid-19 clusters effectively, greater participation in the TraceTogether Programme will help identify close contacts of Covid-19 positive cases quickly and ringfence any infections. As such, a higher take-up rate for TraceTogether is required before Phase 3 can begin.
You can now collect TraceTogether tokens at 38 Community Centres / Clubs (CCs), and it is expected to be available at all 108 CCs by end-November 2020. Click on the TokenGoWhere website to locate a convenient site for collection.
Moving Towards Phase 3
- Increasing Group Size
The group size for gatherings outside in public spaces and the number of visitors allowed to homes could be increased from the present 5 persons to 8 persons in Phase 3.
- Increasing Capacity Limits
Public venues like museums, casinos and amusement parks are currently allowed to open but subject to a capacity limit, and events such as wedding receptions are currently allowed to be held in two zones of 50 persons. As we move into Phase 3, these capacity limits could be increased, with events having potential multiple zones of 50 persons.
Additional safety measures, including pre-event testing, would be required as capacity limits are increased, especially for events with higher-risk activities such as wedding receptions where many people seated closely together for a meal.
- Activities in Higher-risk Settings
During this Covid-19 pandemic, bars, pubs, karaoke lounges and nightclubs are closed as these places are deemed as higher-risk settings, as their activities pose a higher risk of transmission due to possible close interactions. These places are unlikely to resume at the start of Phase 3, however, the MMTF is still considering a more stringent set of measures to explore how the entertainment industry can resume activities safely.
- Travelling and Re-opening of Borders
As with the rest of the world, the tourism and aviation industries have been badly hit by the pandemic. Singapore, as a key international and travel hub, will look into gradually allowing more travel to resume safely.
Singapore has managed to secure travel arrangements with a few countries that it believes has displayed successful control over their domestic outbreak of Covid-19. Most of these arrangements are only for business and essential travellers, whose itineraries need to be approved before travel can commence. In addition, Singapore has unilaterally opened our borders to some countries without reciprocation as of yet.
All Singaporeans, Permanent Residents and Long-Term Pass Holders will also now be allowed to access government subsidies and insurance coverage for their medical bills regarding Covid-19 expenses.
Only with everyone’s efforts and sacrifices, we will then be able to continue to control the spread of the Covid-19 infection and keep community transmission low. To enable us to transit into Phase 3 of post-Circuit Breaker, safe management measures have to remain in the community, workplaces, dormitories, and especially when we open up our borders.