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COVID-19: Delving Deeper Into Circuit Breakers and Other New Measures in S’pore

Following PM Lee’s address earlier this afternoon, the multi-ministry task force has held a press conference to better explain the aforementioned Circuit Breaker system introduced by PM Lee earlier. The crux of the Circuit Breaker is made up of three crucial pointers—workplace closure, full home-based learning, as well as a tightening of movements and gatherings. In case you missed out on the commotion that was the announcements made earlier, here’s a break down of what you need to know.

1. Heightened measures in place for four weeks

The Circuit Breaker will be in place for four full weeks starting from 7 April 2020 until 4 May 2020. This amounts to two incubation cycles, for the incubation period of COVID-19 is known to last for two weeks. Whoever is able to comply with these restrictions are strongly encouraged to do so, as the next two weeks are paramount in our battle against the coronavirus.

2. So what will remain open?

The announcement of the Circuit Breaker has again sent many Singaporeans spiralling into the deep, dark hole of panic-buying. Barely minutes into PM Lee’s speech earlier, long queues were already forming at supermarkets in malls across the island. Now before you buy your weight in instant noodles and toilet paper yet again, instead be informed of the amenities that will continue to be available to the community.

| Food & Beverage

All restaurants, hawker centres, coffee shops, food courts, and other such outlets will remain open, but only for takeaway or delivery. While this means that you don’t have to face the stress of becoming Gordon Ramsay overnight, you will have to take away your food and consume it in the safety of your homes for communal dining spaces are kept to a minimum now.

Food suppliers, caterers, importers, traders, warehouses, manufacturers, supermarkets, wet markets, grocery retailers, wholesale markets, and convenience stores will remain open. Phew, that was a long list. Which all the more means to say that you can halt the panic buying with a peace of mind now. Yes, Cecilia, I’m looking at you. It’s okay to put down that bag of rice.

| Retail

Retailers offering essential services will remain open. If you’re a little clouded as to what that refers to, here’s a list that you can reference. To name some, pharmacies, opticians, hairdressers, veterinary services, consumer electronics, laundry services, and hardware stores are all part of the group of retailers that will continue to be available.

| Public Service

The public and government services will be fully operational, but with the majority of the public service workforce telecommuting. Physical counter services will be scaled down, with reduced staff due to safe distancing. However, digital services will continue to be readily available. Residents can continue to use e-services but are advised to defer any non-urgent visits.

| Essential Services

As mentioned earlier by PM Lee, essential services such as healthcare, transport and financial services will continue to operate. That said, all necessary measures like temperature taking, staff staggering, safe distancing, and good ventilation will be observed in workplaces.

3. Delving deeper into the Circuit Breakers

Many workplaces have already implemented telecommuting arrangements for a significant proportion of their employees. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has also stepped up inspections and issued Stop Work Orders or Remedial Orders to firms that have failed to follow MOM advisories on telecommuting.

| Closure of Workplace Premises

However, there is still a need to reduce even more the proportion of our workforce who commute for work. All business, social, or other activities that cannot be conducted through telecommuting from home will be suspended from 7 April 2020 to 4 May 2020 (inclusive). Essential Services and their related supply chains, as well as entities that form a part of the global supply chain, are exempted from the suspension.

Entities providing essential services will need to operate with the minimum staff needed on their premises to ensure the continued running of those services and implement strict safe distancing measures. Social interactions, including during meal times, must be avoided. These firms may be required to suspend their operations should any of their staff working on the premises become infected.

| Full Home-Based Learning for Schools

From 8 April 2020 to 4 May 2020, schools and institutes of higher learning will shift to full home-based learning, while preschool and student care centres will suspend services. Private education institutions should also move to home-based learning, or suspend classes otherwise.

Parents working in essential services such as healthcare, who are unable to secure alternative childcare arrangements may approach their children’s preschools and primary schools for assistance.

4. Reducing Physical Interactions and Gatherings

| Public Spaces

From 7 April 2020, all attractions, theme parks, museums, casinos, and recreational facilities in hotels will be closed. Sports and recreation facilities, such as public swimming pools, country clubs, gyms and fitness studios will also be closed. All places of worship will be closed. Organised sporting programmes and religious services will remain suspended.

The Government acknowledges that it is no small task to handle such closures for a prolonged period of time. Come 6 April 2020, the Government will announce added support for households and businesses, on top of what was provided in the earlier Budgets to tide them over the next month.

| The Individual

Members of the public are strongly advised to stay at home as much as possible. With the exception of purchasing daily necessities, essential services, or for urgent medical needs, one should avoid going out unnecessarily. There should be no social gatherings. Social contact should be confined to immediate family members living in the same household during this period.

Those who need to exercise should do so on their own, around their immediate neighbourhood in open, uncrowded places. Public parks and open-air stadiums will remain open, but gatherings in groups in these spaces must be avoided. Everyone should practise safe distancing even in open spaces.

| Use of Masks

Reversing their previous stance that only the sick should be wearing surgical masks, the Government now encourages the individual to wear a mask when going out due to the quickly changing situation. They urge users to consider utilising reusable masks instead, as there is currently a global shortage of surgical masks, and these masks should be conserved for those who need them the most, such as healthcare workers.

The Government will distribute reusable masks to all residents with registered home addresses. The distribution will take place progressively from 5 to 12 April 2020, from collection points at designated Community Clubs/Centres (CCs) and Residents’ Committee (RC) Centres. Family/household members will be able to collect on behalf of their other household members.

Social Responsibility is the best way to do your part

There is no time more crucial than now to practise social responsibility, and that includes minding one’s personal hygiene, seeing a doctor even when mildly unwell, and avoiding close contact with others where possible. Though this might not seem substantial, every citizen’s cooperation is the nation’s best bet at beating the virus.

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