SINGAPORE: Gatherings outside school and work will be limited to a maximum of 10 people from Thursday at 11.59pm to Apr 30 this year, the COVID-19 multi-ministry task force said on Tuesday (Mar 24).

The task force said that the duration of the stricter measures may be extended if the situation here does not improve.

Events which were limited to 250 participants previously, like festivals and concerts, will also have to adhere to the new measures.

The task force said in a statement that it will also close all entertainment venues such as night clubs, discos, karaoke outlets, cinemas and theatres where it said there is a high risk of transmission due to sustained close contact over a period of time.

All centre-based tuition and enrichment classes will be suspended.

“This is to reduce the intermingling of students from different schools and enhance the safety of our students,” according to the statement.

All religious services and congregations will also be suspended, although places of worship may remain open for private worship and essential rites, subject to a group size of up to 10.

READ: Returning Singapore residents from UK, US to serve stay-home notices at hotels

READ: MUIS to close mosques until further notice amid high risk of COVID-19 transmission

Shows within attractions, whether indoor or outdoor, group tours at museums and open atrium sales events will also be suspended. Supermarkets can go ahead with such atrium sales events as they may be used to disperse crowds from their stores, the task force said.

Organised tours within public venues such as sightseeing and guided walking tours will also be suspended.

“Activities like live music or karaoke that are likely to cause patrons to congregate will have to cease,” the task force said.

Suspension of activities for seniors will also be extended till Apr 30.

“During this time, we advise seniors and individuals with underlying chronic medical conditions to avoid social gatherings as far as possible,” the task force said.

During a press conference on Tuesday, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the task force, said that a large proportion of local transmission takes place during social gatherings.

“So we think an effective way to reduce the likely vectors for local transmission … is to reduce social gatherings particularly in large numbers,” he said.

RETAIL MALLS, ATTRACTIONS MAY OPEN BUT HAVE TO ADHERE TO REQUIREMENTS

While venues such as retail malls, attractions and museums may remain open, as contact is more transient in these places, operators are expected to adhere to strict requirements.

These include reducing operating capacity so that the venue does not have more than one person per 16 sq m of usable space, in order to prevent crowding, ensuring groups do not exceed 10 people, and allowing at least 1m of physical spacing between patrons.

“Retail malls and attractions that are unable to adhere to these requirements must be closed,” the task force said.

READ: 49 new COVID-19 cases in Singapore, with 32 imported cases; most travelled to UK

READ: Measures to contain COVID-19 introduced in tiers and ‘based on risk’: Lawrence Wong

The task force cautioned that malls and attractions may face additional penalties if they are found to have been a place of transmission of COVID-19 and had not adhered to the requirements.

Mr Wong said that gyms and yoga studios would not be closed, but if the venues are unable to uphold the principles of safe distancing, they will be shut. 

The same goes for political parties that may want to organise any activities, Mr Wong said in response to a question.  

Dining venues will also have to ensure they take safe distancing precautions. Those with fixed seating will have to use alternate seating. While related diners may sit together at one table, tables must be “spaced out”, according to the statement.

Mr Wong said: “We are mindful that the COVID-19 outbreak has alreay impacted many businesses, and the measures we need to take to protect ourselves to save lives will have economic impact.” 

However, he added that the Government is taking these into account for a second package of stimulus measures that will be announced by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat on Thursday.

The task force advised Singaporeans to avoid holding and participating in social events and gatherings involving more than 10 people, including weddings and birthdays.

“For funerals and wakes, attendance should be limited as far as possible to family members only, and gatherings of 10 or fewer people at any one time,” it said.

“Much as we understand the need for friends and acquaintances to pay their last respects, and give comfort to families in their grief, we urge the public to do their part in minimising social interactions so that we can slow down the spread of the virus together.”

In a Facebook post, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said the strong measures implemented to protect lives will “inevitably have a major impact on the global economy and our economies”.

“Many of our businesses have been affected, with some sectors particularly hard hit. More businesses will be affected by the measures we announced today,” he wrote on Tuesday.

Mr Heng is set to present a supplementary budget on Thursday, with more support measures for families and businesses.

“More support will be given to the most severely impacted sectors,” he said.

“We live in extraordinary times. But this crisis has also brought out the best in our people and our companies.”

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