From Circuit Breaker to Transitional Phase: A look at all of Singapore’s COVID-19 measures
Here’s a recap of all the changes we’ve been through since the circuit breaker was first introduced in April 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been an unpredictable wild ride for many of us.
Who would have thought that what was supposed to be a month of circuit breaker to control the COVID-19 outbreak in April 2020, would turn out to be almost two years of battle with the virus?
With so many rules changes since COVID-19 first came to our shores, it’s no surprise that most of us aren’t able to keep track of them all.
Many of us might not remember it clearly now, but it all began on Jan 23, 2020, when the first COVID-19 case – a 66-year-old Chinese national who came to Singapore three days earlier – was reported.
The COVID-19 Control Order was then announced on Apr 3, 2020 when the situation worsened with cases and death tolls rising.
This led to the beginning of the dreaded circuit breaker lockdown on Apr 7, 2020.
Circuit breaker lockdown
The circuit breaker lockdown was originally supposed to last from Apr 7, 2020 to May 4, 2020. During this period, only essential services such as clinics and food establishments were able to keep premises open, and all schools were closed as students shifted to home-based learning.
Working from home also became the default, for those who were not required to be at their workplaces.
Singaporeans were told to stay home as much as possible, and only leave their house for essential things such as buying groceries. Only one member from each household was allowed out.
Social contact with others was also confined to immediate family members living in the same household and no social gatherings were allowed.
For the first time, dining-in at eateries were forbidden, although take-away and deliveries were able to continue.
Weddings, marriage solemnisations, religious congregations and large-scale events had to be postponed.
And of course, it became mandatory for everyone to wear masks while outside and stay a metre apart from each other, a rule that still applies now.
As the number of COVID-19 cases continued rising, it was announced on Apr 21, 2020 that the circuit breaker would be extended for another month till Jun 1, 2020. It was also announced then that certain non-essential services, such as bubble tea shops and barbershops, would be closed till May 4 to prevent the spread of the virus.
Midway through the circuit breaker extension, a three-phased approach was announced on May 19, 2020 by the Multi-Ministry Taskforce, to slowly and safely exit the circuit breaker lockdown.
Phase 1 (“Safe Reopening”)
Phase 1, named “Safe Reopening”, was implemented on Jun 2, 2020 and lasted for 17 days up till Jun 18, 2020.
The first phase served the purpose of testing the waters with lessened restrictions while still remaining vigilant.
While working from home and home-based learning was still mandatory, more Singaporeans were allowed to go back to their physical workplaces.
Only primary and secondary school students from graduating cohorts taking major end-of-year exams were allowed to attend school physically. Other cohorts had to rotate between home-based learning and returning to school weekly.
Certain services such as pet services and motor vehicle services were allowed to reopen.
Households could now receive up to two visitors per day. However, visitors could only be children or grandchildren from the same visiting household.
Marriage solemnisations, funerals, and wakes could resume with a maximum of 10 people. Places of worship could also re-open, but for private worship only.
Phase 2 (“Safe Transition”)
Phase 2, otherwise known as the “Safe Transition” stage, began right after Phase 1 ended on Jun 19, 2020.
As this phase was meant as a segway back into the path of “normalcy” again while not completely slacking the reins of restrictions, Phase 2 lasted the longest at over six months and ended only on Dec 27, 2020.
During this phase, small group gatherings of up to five people were allowed. Dining-in at F&B establishments were also allowed, with no more than five customers per table. Households could also receive up to five unique visitors a day.
On Jun 29, 2020, all students returned to school daily for face-to-face lessons. Institutes of Higher Learning also gradually allowed more students back on campus.
Religious congregations were still not allowed to reopen, likewise for large-scale events like conferences and concerts, and venues such as libraries and cinemas.
However, wedding solemnisations at home could take place with up to 10 people excluding the solemniser. At other venues, 20 people excluding the solemniser could be permitted.
Wakes and funerals increased capacity to 20 people present at a time.
Phase 3 ("Safe Nation")
As Singapore was slowly making good progress, Phase 3 of re-opening, dubbed “Safe Nation”, started on Dec 28, 2020.
During this phase, group size for gatherings and household visitors increased from five to eight people.
The capacity for congregational and other worship services was also increased to up to 250 people in zones of 50 people each.
Capacity for wedding solemnisations increased to 100 and then 250 in zones of 50 people. Wedding receptions with over 100 people would require pre-event testing.
Phase 3 lasted for a total of four months and 11 days, ending on May 7, 2021.
The rise of the Delta variant and surge in COVID-19 cases in the community due to clusters linked to Tan Tock Seng Hospital and Changi Airport, saw Singapore temporarily returning to Phase 2 measures on May 8, 2021.
Return to Phase 2
The return to Phase 2 saw Singaporeans having to readjust to social gathering sizes of up to five people again.
No more than 50 per cent of people who were able to work from home were allowed to be at their workplaces physically.
Wedding solemnisation allowed for up to 50 participants, and 100 participants with pre-event testing.
Up to 100 people were allowed at congregational services, or 250 given pre-event testing. Masked singing at places of worship was not allowed.
The return to Phase 2 lasted for only about a week.
Phase 2 Heightened Alert
With the rise in COVID-19 cases, authorities decided to tighten restrictions further to minimise social interaction.
Thus, Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) — otherwise known as P2HA for short — was implemented on May 16, 2021. It ended on Jun 13, 2021.
Social gathering sizes during this phase were restricted to a maximum of two people, be it to public places and the same cap applied for the number of household visitors.
Dining-in was prohibited once again, with only takeaways and deliveries allowed. Working from home became the default as well, although schools remained open.
With pre-event testing, wedding solemnisations can have up to 100 people, or up to 50 people without PET. No wedding receptions were allowed.
Congregational services could continue with up to 50 worshippers without pre-event testing, and 100 with testing. Singing was still not allowed.
Phase 3 Heightened Alert
On Jun 14, 2021, Singapore moved to Phase 3 (Heightened Alert).
Five people were allowed to gather, dine in, and visit a household. Singaporeans were only allowed two social gatherings per day, be it to another household or going out to public places.
Working from home still remained the default.
With pre-event testing, 250 people could attend congregational and worship services. Without testing, only 50 could. Singing was also allowed to resume.
As for solemnisations and weddings, up to 250 people were allowed to attend with pre-event testing. Funerals were allowed up to 20 people in a day.
P3HA ended on Jul 21, 2021.
Return to Phase 2 Heightened Alert
On July 22, 2021, Singapore moved back to P2HA to help contain the growing COVID-19 clusters linked to the Jurong Fishery Port.
Social gathering group sizes were reduced from five to two, with only two visitors allowed per household in a day.
Employees had to continue working from home.
Up to 100 people were allowed at congregational and worship services with pre-event testing, and 50 without. Live-singing ceased as well.
Capacity for marriage solemnisations decreased to 100 people with pre-event testing, and 50 without testing. Groups had to stay in sizes of five.
Singapore’s second P2HA was set to end on Aug 18, 2021.
On Aug 6, 2021, a four-step reopening was announced. The first, called Preparatory Stage, started on Aug 10, 2021.
Only fully vaccinated individuals, recovered patients, or those possessing a valid negative COVID-19 test were allowed to dine-in in groups of five. Vaccination status was not required for those dining-in in groups of two at hawker centres or coffee shops.
Work-from-home remained the default. But from Aug 29, 2021 onwards, 50 per cent of employees were allowed to return back to the workplace.
Up to 1,000 people were allowed at worship services, live performances and marriage solemnisations if all vaccinated.
The authorities tightened measures slightly from Sep 8, this time limiting the number of social gatherings Singaporeans can have in a day to just one. People were not allowed to have social gatherings or interactions at workplaces, while self-testing was introduced for the first time.
The Preparatory Stage lasted till Sep 26, 2021.
Singapore moved into its next phase, the Stabilisation Phase, on Sep 27, 2021.
While the stabilisation phase was originally scheduled to last until Oct 24, 2021, it was extended to Nov 21, 2021 to ease the pressure on Singapore’s healthcare system. Then, Singapore saw 3,000 cases reported daily, and almost 90 per cent and 67 per cent of all isolation beds and Intensive Care Unit beds were filled respectively.
Singaporeans could gather in groups of up to two, while up to two unique household visitors were allowed daily. Dining in was only allowed for groups of two vaccinated individuals. As for hawker centres and coffee shops, both vaccinated and unvaccinated people could dine-in in groups of two.
Work-from-home was still set as the default.
It was also during this phase that vaccinated-differentiated measures were introduced.
Singapore entered the Transition Phase as of Nov 22.
Up to five people are finally allowed in social gatherings, with five per group allowed to dine-in at F&B establishments provided all are vaccinated. Selected coffee shops and hawker centres also allow five vaccinated persons in a group to dine-in.
Up to 1,000 attendees can attend congregational and worship services if all are vaccinated. Otherwise, only 50 attendees are allowed without pre-event testing (PET).
Unmasking for singing or playing of wind instruments is now allowed, subject to safe management measures.
Restaurants are also allowed to play recorded music too.
As the holidays are coming, many of us are surely excited to go out and celebrate with friends. However, we need to keep in mind that despite the slackened restrictions, we still need to remain vigilant and follow all COVID-19 rules set in place for our health and safety.
If all of us stay responsible citizens, we will eventually find ourselves progressing forward to a much safer and free community where we no longer have to take one step forward and two steps back with the fluctuating regulations.