Singapore's Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) has released a set of guidelines for the gradual resumption of business operations, following the Multi-Ministry Taskforce's announcement on 2 May that it would progressively ease some of the tighter circuit breaker measures over the coming weeks.
In addition to those permitted to resume work from 12 May - for example, retail of pet supplies, retail laundry services, manufacturing and onsite preparation of food, the MTI said it will gradually re-open more workplaces, taking into account their importance to the economy and global supply chains, their contribution to local employment and their ability to minimise risks of transmission at their workplaces.
In line with that, all businesses are required to implement all necessary safe management measures in order to minimise crowding within their premises and ensure high sanitation and hygiene standards.
These measures, in the MTI's guidelines, include:
- Implementing SafeEntry at the workplace and encouraging employees to download and activate the TraceTogether application.
- Staggering working hours and break times, to ensure minimised crowing of workers upon arrival/departure, or break times.
- All events or activities that involve close and prolonged contact amongst participants must be cancelled or deferred, as with all social gatherings at the workplace. This includes interactions at staff canteens, and being in groups during meals or breaks.
- Observing high levels of hygiene and cleanliness in accordance with the sector-relevant SG Clean checklists, as well as guidelines from the Ministry of Health and National Environment Agency.
- Employers should ensure all staff, patrons and delivery personnel on the premises have their masks on.
- Hand sanitisers should be in place at all high-touch areas.
- Clearly demarcated queue lines and signage for customers/visitors.
- Ensure waiting areas for customers/visitors and delivery personnel are clearly identified, with demarcations for safe distancing.
- In line with that, businesses must ensure all customers/visitors and delivery personnel observe at least one-metre spacing at all times, and do not gather in clusters.
On the topic of safe distancing, Enterprise Singapore (ESG) has this week issued composition fines on two companies, for the break of safe distancing measures at the workplace.
From 4 May to 6 May, the agency conducted inspections at 20 workplaces in essential services, and two companies - Goodman Environmental Group and The Bakery Depo - were found to have failed in enforcing proper safe distancing measures. Both were fined S$1,000 each.
- Goodman Environmental Group had failed to put in place health and temperature checks for their employees, proper tracking of employees from split teams, and enforcement of the one-metre safe distancing among employees.
- At the same time, The Bakery Depot had cross-deployed employees to different retail outlets, as well as failed to enforce the wearing of masks and the one-metre safe distancing among employees.
That said, the good news is that most companies were found to be compliant with the requirements, and have implemented measures such as temperature checks and one-metre safe distancing between workspaces.
The ESG also highlighted that working from home was also strongly encouraged for employees who were able to perform their roles away from the offices, while employees who were required to return to the office and worksites were well-informed of the measures put in place.
Moving forward, the ESG will be advising companies, and working with them to further improve their safe distancing measures and/or sanitation and hygiene practices.
Similar to the MTI's guidelines, these include:
- Ensuring one-metre safe distance between workstations, seats in meeting rooms, pantry and common areas.
- Ensuring that all employees in the office and at worksites wear masks at all times.
Regular and active monitoring and recording of the health status of all workers and visitors to the workplace.
- Ensuring that only essential employees who have been approved by the Ministry of Manpower return to offices and work sites.
- No cross-deployment of workers between offices and worksites and ensuring no interaction of employees during shift changes.
- Implementing SafeEntry at the workplace and ensuring that employees have downloaded and activated the TraceTogether app.
- Ensuring regular and thorough cleaning and disinfection of workplaces, especially for common equipment used between shifts.
The ESG has stressed that it will "not hesitate to take actions, including fines and stop-work orders, against non-compliant workplaces." Companies can also be charged in court.
Under the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act, first-time offenders will face a fine of up to S$10,000, imprisonment of up to six months, or both; Subsequent offences may face a fine of up to S$20,000, imprisonment of up to twelve months, or both.
In similar COVID-19 news, the MTI announced on Wednesday (6 May) that the Emerging Stronger Taskforce will be providing recommendations to the Future Economy Council (FEC), on Singapore's post-COVID-19 economy.
In its first meeting on that day, the taskforce - co-chaired by Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee and PSA International Group CEO Tan Chong Meng, said it will focus on three main areas in planning for recovery in the longer term.
These three main areas are:
- Identifying systemic shifts arising from COVID-19;
- Assessing the impact of these shifts on the Singapore economy, and how these translate into challenges and opportunities; and
- Providing recommendations to the FEC on how Singapore should refresh, reimagine, or reset its economic strategies, to stay economically resilient and build new sources of dynamism in the post-COVID-19 world.
Given the "fluid and unpredictable" nature of the global COVID-19 situation, the taskforce plans to present its recommendations in phases, with its preliminary recommendations likely to be shared with the FEC by early next year.
Apart from the above, the taskforce has appointed 15 industry representatives to join, and these include leaders from Raffles Medical Group, Workforce Singapore, DBS Group, and more. Full list in Annex B here.
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