Following PM Lee’s most recent nation-wide address today, the multi ministry task force has too, held a press conference, to further elaborate on the announcements made by our Prime Minister. Joined by Josephine Teo, Minister of Manpower, and Assoc Prof Kenneth Mak, the task force answers tough questions about the measures moving forward.
The virus situation, even outside dormitory cases, remains uncertain. This is because many still go undetected due to mild symptoms but still remain infectious nonetheless. This group of people may be contributing factors to the ‘reservoir’ of unlinked cases thus far. As such, the Circuit Breaker period has been extended for another 4 weeks, as previously announced by PM Lee himself.
Gan stressed that in this period, we must pay attention to our elderly and the young—two extremely vulnerable groups in this situation. He also acknowledged that Singaporeans have been looking forward to resuming to life as we knew it. But we now live in unprecedented times, and that sometimes call for unprecedented measures.
Prof Mak stated that the trend reflects that imported cases have drastically fallen, and in fact, we have seen none since 10 April. While heartening, this must not lead to complacency, as community spread is still occurring. The task force has established a strong partnership with the SAF, including contact tracing and establishing many medical posts to assist healthcare workers.
After thanking frontline workers and the rest of the citizens, Lawrence Wong, Minister for National Development, emphasised that the best way for us non-essential workers to beat the virus is to stay at home. He appealed to the masses for continued support during this extended Circuit Breaker period, as well as delved deeper into the measures to be put in place.
Localised entry restriction
Perhaps one of the biggest change moving forward, a new Localised Entry Restriction system will be implemented in densely populated ‘hotspots’ such as Supermarkets and wet markets. Individuals will be only permitted entry on an odd-even day basis, depending on the last few digits of their NRIC.
Close more workplaces and F&B outlets
The task force will tighten its list of essential services as well as F&B stores that are permitted to operate. You may find the full list of ‘essential’ F&B services here. You have been warned though, that ‘predominantly beverage’-centric services are no longer allowed to operate, meaning that we may have to bid our dear bubble tea, adieu. This may include degradation of services, and having to bear minor inconveniences, said Wong, but we must keep the end goal in mind—to halt community spread as soon as possible.
These tightened measures will be in place until 4 May, unless stated otherwise. Should we begin to see a significant dwindling of locally transmitted cases, the task force will then consider gradually easing these measures. Due to the unpredictable nature of the matter, it is imperative to anticipate sudden changes to suit the situation.
About 10,000 essential workers have been transferred out of dormitories, and are now living separately, said Josephine Teo, Minister of Manpower. The task force has been actively providing emotional support to those affected through a team of counsellors. Due to the scale of operations, this remains a challenging task, said Teo, but the team will nonetheless continue to put their best foot forward.
Further preventive measures in dormitories
It is now required of all workers staying in all dormitories to stop attending work. This applies to all workers in all companies, including those who have earlier obtained an exemption to operate. In a move that may come as a blow to business, all operations are to cease in the face of these new measures. While tough, it is ultimately one that is necessary in order to minimise the risk of transmissions as much as possible.
The inter-agency task force is slated to provide pre-dawn and breakfast meals for Muslim workers when Ramadan begins. Videos have also been developed to aid in religious guidance tailored to the migrant workers as well.
Stay Home Notices
All essential workers will continue to attend work, but everyone else is required to stay at home. “We have a real chance in breaking the channels of transmission,” said a hopeful Teo, on the condition that everyone abides by the stay home notice faithfully.
The Government will extend the 75% Job Support Scheme (JSS) across all sectors for another month in the month of May 2020. Families those breadwinners who have lost their jobs, are eligible to apply for the Temporary Relief Fund.
From 1 May 2020 onwards, Singaporeans who are unemployed due to COVID-19 can apply for the COVID-19 Support Grant. This provides a cash grant of S$800 per month for three months, a S$100 increment from the previous sum of S$500 in April. MSF will provide more details on how to apply soon. Read more about finance matters here.
Business owners are strongly encouraged to keep their employees on payroll and to make full use of the increased support that will soon be given. However, employers who put local employees on mandatory no-pay-leave or retrench them will not be entitled to the enhanced JSS payout for those employees.
This extension of measures will cost the government a grand total of 3.8 billion Singapore dollars. The coming weeks will be even more critical, in our fight against COVID-19, but “this is the spirit of Singapore together,” said Heng, urging Singaporeans to work together in a united, common effort.
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