Youths react to eased COVID-19 restrictions
Starting Mar 29, wearing masks outdoors will be optional and group sizes for social gatherings will increase to 10.
Singapore will soon be able to dispense with masks in outdoor settings and gather in groups of 10, after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that COVID-19 restrictions will be eased from Mar 29.
In a nationwide broadcast on Thursday (Mar 24), PM Lee said that Singapore has reached a “major milestone” in its COVID-19 journey, with the population having stronger immunity after many had been exposed to the virus.
However, he said that authorities remain mindful that COVID-19 may bring further surprises, highlighting the different variants that have emerged in the last two years, and urged Singaporeans to take the new measures in the “right spirit” and not let their guard down completely.
We spoke to nine youths to find out what they were most looking forward to, as well as their possible concerns regarding the eased restrictions.
Excited but still too accustomed to old restrictions
“I’m most excited for the 10-pax rule! It’s been so long since I’ve gathered in a room with more than six people, so it’s going to be lots of fun. My friend’s birthday is in early April, and we are all going crazy over finally being able to celebrate with more people.
“However, I’ll probably still wear a mask outdoors despite hating wearing them; because if we still need to wear it indoors, I might as well just wear it everywhere. I also don’t want to be seen as inconsiderate by some for not wearing a mask.
“I think I’m too used to the current culture, so it might be weird to adjust when things finally go back to pre-covid times.” – Faustina Christine, 21, Intern
No room for complacency despite the slackened rules
“I’m grateful for the ease brought now that group sizes have increased to 10 people, as there will be less logistical issues when it comes to organising large family gatherings.
“As I haven’t caught the flu ever since masks were mandatory, I will still be wearing a mask outdoors despite the updated rules. Also, I like the “privacy” masks bring because no one can see my full face.
“I doubt the updated measures will affect the healthcare sector significantly, but vulnerable groups — such as those who cannot be vaccinated or the elderly — face higher risk and exposure now. So I would imagine the healthcare sector has to monitor the impact on these groups. But ultimately, I trust in our shared responsibility to keep everyone safe.
“I hope that eventually SafeEntry will be removed, but social distancing and safety measures will continue being implemented where possible. So, I’m glad the 1m social distancing rule is still set in place.” – Yiyu, 29, Editor
Wishes for more clarification on the new mask-differentiated areas
“I’m concerned about the enforcement of mask wearing in indoor settings. The fine line between an outdoor and an indoor setting might be a little blurry for some Singaporeans.
“I have witnessed many Singaporeans being relaxed about the mask-wearing rules indoors, be it with their friends or the workplace. There is a possibility that the virus would spread at a higher rate, which might put a strain on our healthcare system again.
“I hope that the differences between an indoor and an outdoor location could be made clearer in the next few weeks once the new rules take effect.
“Personally, I would still wear my mask outdoors most of the time since I’m already used to it and wearing it on-and-off might be a hassle. More importantly, despite being fully-vaccinated, I still wish to avoid contracting the virus.
“I do look forward to the day where we are no longer required to wear our masks in all settings.” – Adiel Rusyaidi, 20, Unemployed
Envisions for a smooth-sailing return to nightlife
“I think these changes have been a little slow, to be honest. We have hit a plateau for a while now and I think it’s due time the mask comes off, especially when most Singaporeans are vaccinated already.
“I’m most excited to not wear masks out in public, because I will finally be able to see people’s faces instead of their masks. It gives me a sense of normalcy.
“Sadly, I think the healthcare sector will still see small peaks here and there but nothing too worrying. Since most Singaporeans are vaccinated by now, even if they test positive for COVID-19, they’ll be on SHN instead of coming to the hospitals, so I won’t be busy.
“I can’t wait for the local nightlife scene to open up and to be able to drink alcohol after 10.30pm again. I can go to parties, small club sessions, as well as host more people in group dinners. Finally!” – Lim Wei Jie, 23, Healthcare Assistant
Cautious but excited for new possibilities and connections
“The shift to increased group sizes of 10 people is the change I am the most excited about. The COVID-19 restrictions have created so much uncertainty over the past two years. So, while we have the chance, I am looking forward to catching up with extended family and friends!
“As for the usage of masks, I will still be cautious and continue to wear them as several of my family members have pre-existing medical conditions that make them more susceptible to the virus.
“Personally, I do worry about the easing of restrictions and its impact on healthcare workers. Having a brother who works in the healthcare field, I could clearly recall the stress he faced during the Delta variant wave last year. I hope they do not have to go through that a second time. People should continue to stay cautious and empathise with those hidden heroes in our fight against COVID-19.
“I am looking forward to returning back to a physical work environment for the remainder of my internship. Being a part of the IT field, I am eager to attend face-to-face meetings and work with the company’s updated technological equipment.
“I hope to gain further clarity regarding the easing of the travel restrictions. There could be a potential influx of imported cases that may arise and affect our local community once again. That worries me.” – Nivetha Sekar, 18, Student
“I think the updated measures may put more strain on the healthcare sector if they lead to an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases.
“My concern is that Singaporeans may take these new measures for granted and the act of not wearing masks outdoors may lead to an increased transmission of the virus.” – Sasha Loh, 17, Student
Dining in with a big family is possible again
“All I really want is to eat out with my family and sit on one table together again, so I’m really looking forward to the doubling in size of group gatherings as I haven’t been able to dine out with my whole family of nine people in a while.
“When the five pax measures were in place, we always just ordered takeout and eat at home since we did not want the trouble of sitting on separate tables in the restaurant and such.
“Now, we can all eat out together and sit on one table, which I really missed because it was always the family time that I look forward to every week.” – Atie Rusyda, 21, Student
Concerned people might think COVID-19 is all over
“With Hari Raya and Ramadhan coming soon, I am the most excited for the 10 pax rule. This means that I have the chance to meet my extended family members whom I have not seen for quite a long time.
“This means that we could actually celebrate Hari Raya like we used to before the pandemic.
“I am also excited to see how Ramadhan would be like, especially with the bazaar back this year. I am excited to visit the bazaar with my friends.” – Siti Zulaiha Bte Nurhanafi, 19, Student
Reminder that these changes shouldn’t be taken for granted
“I personally didn’t expect these changes but I do think it’s about time.
“It actually surprised me that the Government would actually allow us to reach this stage of not wearing masks so quickly, but perhaps there was some pressure from countries where masks are no longer mandatory that led to this decision.
“I don’t think COVID-19 is a scary thing anymore, but my only concern is that Singapore will start to get complacent because of the new rules and forget the virus exists.
“The updated measures will likely cause a surge in the number of cases yet again, so as long as these hospitals are well-prepared, it shouldn’t get too bad.
“I do still hope to see Safe Entry gone too. I miss having more exit points in malls.” – Khoo Jing Wen, 20, Unemployed
Written by Shannon Kuan, Charlotte Chang, Harshiyne Maran, Aung Nyi Htet, and Muhd Zahin Ilmi