SINGAPORE: The situation concerning elevated safe distancing measures in public places has “improved significantly” compared to the last few days, particularly in wet markets, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Sunday (Apr 12).

However, he stressed the need for people to take the enhanced safe distancing measures seriously, given that one infected person could be enough to create a “fairly major chain of transmission”.

“I really urge everyone to take (safe distancing) seriously, because enhanced distancing measures will be inconvenient, but it is far more important to protect one another,” he said in a radio interview with CNA 938’s John Yip.

The authorities have implemented elevated safe distancing measures under a “circuit breaker” period in place until May 4, to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

READ: All beaches in Singapore closed as part of tougher COVID-19 measures: Lawrence Wong

READ: 2 people fined for not complying with COVID-19 safe distancing rules: NEA

However, the first few days of the circuit breaker period saw members of the public flouting the elevated measures, with thousands of warnings issued by the authorities.

Mr Heng’s comments followed a Facebook post on Saturday by Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli, who said that 3,000 written stern warnings were issued that day to members of the public for failing to comply with safe distancing measures.

The large number of warnings prompted authorities to implement stiffer penalties for breaking circuit breaker measures, with Mr Masagos announcing that those caught flouting the rules would be fined S$300 instead of receiving written warnings.

CARING FOR FOREIGN WORKERS

Meanwhile, the Government has short-term and long-term plans in place to improve conditions at foreign worker dormitories, said Mr Heng.

Singapore has seen a spike in novel coronavirus cases at foreign worker dormitories over the past week.

In the immediate term, the COVID-19 multi-ministry task force has set up a special group to look at the measures needed for foreign worker dormitories,” said Mr Heng.

This includes raising standards of cleanliness and hygiene and reducing the concentration of foreign workers in the dormitories, said Mr Heng, adding that authorities are looking into housing foreign workers in other facilities.

READ: COVID-19: Battling fear and boredom, migrant workers grapple with isolation in dormitories

READ: COVID-19: Nearly 20,000 foreign workers in quarantine in S11 Dormitory, Westlite Toh Guan

Medical teams are also on the ground, and workers are being tested for COVID-19, with those who test positive isolated and treated.

As for the long term, the Government will “look at what else we need to do to make sure that we all take care of the foreign workers, who have left their country to help us build Singapore”, said Mr Heng.

“I really urge all our employers to work together with the Government to make sure that we do what is needed to keep everyone safe, healthy and that they can have a meaningful life and meaningful work in Singapore.”

HOW MUCH MORE IS THE GOVERNMENT PREPARED TO SPEND?

While the Government is looking at “various indicators” to see “how much more (it) would need to do”, Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister, urged Singaporeans to “make the best use” of the resources already allocated.

He noted that some of the support measures announced to fight COVID-19 would last for several more months, and some until the end of the year.

“So let’s make the full use of what is available, be creative about it, rather than to think about what else we need to do – that’s something that we are all working on at the moment – but be creative in using what is already there,” he said.

Singapore has announced a range of measures to help businesses, workers and households through the COVID-19 outbreak. Earlier this month, Mr Heng announced a third round of measures in a new Solidarity Budget to tide the country through the novel coronavirus situation.

It followed the Unity Budget announced on Feb 18 and the Resilience Budget of Mar 26.

Altogether, Singapore will be committing S$59.9 billion, or about 12 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

READ: COVID-19: 9 in 10 Singaporeans will receive S$600 payout on Apr 14

READ: Solidarity Budget: Singapore spends another S$5.1b to save jobs, protect livelihoods amid impending circuit breaker rules

To Singaporeans anticipating the end of the circuit breaker period, Mr Heng said the best thing to do was to take the measures seriously.

“Let’s all stay psychologically and socially resilient, because it is a very uncertain situation,” he said. “The best thing that we can do is, first and foremost at this stage, take our social distancing measures, circuit breaker measures, very seriously.”

“Use this time well to spend time with our families, spend time with our loved ones, connect with one another and help one another.”

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