With community transmission of COVID-19 kept low over the past few weeks, there have been talks about continuing Singapore's journey of safe re-opening towards Phase Three. 

In a recently released roadmap to Phase Three, Singapore's Ministry of Health (MOH) said: "Phase Three is not a return to the pre-COVID status quo ante. It will entail new ways of working and living until the world has the virus under tight control (e.g. through more effective treatments and vaccines that are widely available). So we have to be prepared to stay in Phase Three for a prolonged period (potentially more than a year)." 

However, the MOH also noted that Phase Three will not be static, with scope for further reopening and scaling up of activities if more enablers can be put in place. 

Here are seven adjustments Singaporeans can expect when shifting to Phase Three, with some measures already in place. 

#1 Work-related events at third-party venues

From 22 October 2020, in-person work-related events such as conferences and annual general meetings will be allowed to take place at third-party venues, up to 50 persons per event and subject to any additional premise owners’ policies.

Since 28 September 2020, these events have been allowed to resume at workplaces and businesses’ own premises.

#2 Live performances at designated venues

From 1 November 2020, live performances will also be allowed to resume at designated live performance venues, with up to two zones of 50 audience members.

Safe management measures such as limits on the number of production crew and performers who can be unmasked, and safe distancing on stage, backstage, between the performers and audience, and amongst the audience must continue to be observed.

Further details will be released by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth and National Arts Council.

#3 Wedding receptions at Housing Development Board (HDB) common areas

Wedding receptions will be allowed at HDB common areas managed by Town Councils. The receptions are subject to a cap of 100 unique attendees (including the wedding couple but excluding vendors) and prevailing safe management measures.

These receptions must be organised by a professional wedding organiser or company providing related services.

The Singapore Malay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SMCCI) will be helping to facilitate such wedding receptions. Before applying to the Town Councils, wedding organisers and couples of all ethnicities must first submit their event details to SMCCI and obtain a letter of acknowledgement.

Couples and wedding organisers can approach SMCCI from 9 November 2020.

#4 Increasing group size from five to eight

In Phase Three, the group size for gatherings outside the home could be increased from the present five people to eight people. The number of visitors allowed to homes would similarly increase to 8.

#5 Increasing capacity limits of public venues and events 

In Phase Three, the capacity limits of public venues such as museums and attractions could be increased. At the same time, events such as congregational worship services and wedding receptions could have multiple zones of 50 people, up from the current two zones of 50 people.

These adjustments would have to be done in a controlled manner, setting by setting, over the course of Phase Three, and additional measures would apply for specific settings.

#6 Considerations for activities in higher-risk settings such as nightclubs

Higher-risk settings like bars, pubs, karaoke lounges and nightclubs are not expected to open at the start of Phase Three.

However, the Government is considering a few limited pilots in these settings. These pilots will be subject to a more stringent set of measures, including pre-entry testing, to explore how the industry could resume safely. The Government will discuss these possibilities with the nightlife industry.

Where there is non-resumption, an assistance package will be put in place to help business operators and owners transit and pivot to new areas.

#7 Travel and re-opening of borders

Through the unilateral opening of borders and Air Travel Bubbles, Singapore is allowing travellers from low-risk countries/ regions to enter Singapore with a COVID-19 test without the need to serve a Stay-Home Notice (SHN). Low-risk countries/ regions are those which have comprehensive public health surveillance systems and displayed successful control over the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

For travellers from higher-risk countries/ regions, the current approach is to subject them to SHN at home or at dedicated SHN facilities. The Government is exploring ways to deploy more frequent testing, coupled with other safeguards, to enable more travellers to enter Singapore without a need to serve SHN, while minimising the risk of transmission to the community.

Singapore residents who travel out of the country after 27 March can access government subsidies and insurance coverage

In line with the progressive move to reopen borders, the Singapore Government will henceforth allow all Singaporeans Citizens (SC)/ Permanent Residents (PR)/ Long-Term Pass Holders (LTPH) travelling overseas to access government subsidies and insurance coverage for their medical bills if they have onset of symptoms for COVID-19 within 14 days of their return to Singapore.

Currently, SC/ PRs/ LTPHs who travel out of Singapore from 27 March 2020 onwards are responsible for their own inpatient medical bills, if they have onset of symptoms for COVID-19 within 14 days of their return to Singapore, and are unable to access government subsidies or insurance coverage (be it MediShield Life/ Integrated Plans or private insurance).

There is no change to the charging policy for SCs/ PRs/ LTPHs who departed Singapore before 27 March 2020, i.e. the Government will continue to pay for their inpatient medical bills for COVID-19 treatment upon return, if any.

Photo / 123RF

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