A new set of measures have been implemented by authorities to slow down community transmission without reverting to heightened alert or circuit breaker.
Singapore will begin to tighten its COVID-19 measures starting Wednesday (Sep 8), announced the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Monday (Sep 6).
The announcement comes amid a spike in the number of COVID-19 local cases in Singapore, with several large clusters detected at places such as bus interchanges and Bugis Junction. Most of these cases and clusters emerged due to higher levels of interaction between individuals, either at work or in social settings.
As such, the multi-ministry task force (MTF) has announced several measures to slow down community transmission, including widespread testing. To avoid large spikes in cases, additional measures will also be implemented to detect cases quickly and reduce workplace infections.
Here are five things you should know about the latest COVID-19 measures.
For the next two weeks, all individuals, especially the elderly or those living with them, are strongly advised to limit their non-essential social activities.
Members of the public are also advised to reduce their social circle to a group of regular contacts and to take part in just one social gathering per day, whether in another household or in a public space.
The number of people allowed in a gathering is still capped at five per group.
In light of the recent clusters in workplace settings caused by lax Safe Management Measures, social gatherings and workplace interactions will not be allowed from Wednesday (Sep 8).
Tougher action will also be taken if there are positive cases detected amongst employees who are infected.
In the event that an employee contracts COVID-19 and has returned to the workplace, employers are required to implement a maximum Work-From-Home (WFH) requirement over a 14-day period. This means that everyone in the company who is capable of WFH will be required to do so.
During the 14 days, those working from home should not participate in social gatherings and leave their homes only when necessary.
All individuals, including those who are vaccinated and unvaccinated, should self-test regularly with antigen rapid test (ART) kits, especially if they participate in high-risk activities or attend large-scale events. ART kits are now available at most supermarkets and convenience stores.
The government will also distribute to companies eight ART kits per onsite employee to facilitate weekly testing of their staff over two months.
Individuals can administer the tests themselves at home or at work.
However, employers should also implement a process to better ensure that these tests are conducted correctly, and report the results to respective Government Agencies.
By distributing ART kits to households and companies, authorities hope that Singapore can develop a culture of responsibility in administering regular self-tests.
In addition to quarantining close contacts, authorities will also issue Health Risk Warnings (HRW) and Health Risk Alerts (HRA) once a cluster is identified. The HRAs and HWAs will be sent out to affected individuals to contain the clusters quickly.
A quarantine order is not issued in response to these warnings and alerts.
However, those who receive a HRW will be required by law to undergo a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test and self-isolate until a negative result is obtained from their first test.
In addition, they must undergo an ART test afterwards and another PCR test on the 14th day. Meanwhile, those who receive a HRA will not be required to take any actions under the law. However, they are urged to go for a PCR test as soon as possible.
Those who receive HRWs or HRAs should reduce their social interactions for 14 days.
Authorities hope that the latest COVID-19 measures will provide the country with more time to get vaccinated, which will thereby slow down the transmission of the virus without having to return to a state of heightened alert or circuit breaker.
However, the government has not ruled out returning to heightened alert or circuit breaker.
Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the MTF, said that Singapore would adopt a stricter approach in managing COVID-19 only as a last resort to avoid overwhelming the nation’s hospital system.
“With all of these measures, we hope that we can help to slow down transmission without having to go back to a heightened alert or the circuit breaker.
“As I said last week, these are last-resort measures and we will try our best to refrain from using them, but we should not rule them out entirely,” Mr Wong said.
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