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Transcript of Minister Lawrence Wong's Opening Remarks at The Multi-Ministry Taskforce Press Conference on 20 July 2021

20 Jul 2021

Good afternoon. Let me wish all our Muslim friends a Selamat Hari Raya Haji as well.

In our last update, we were dealing with the KTV cluster, and we highlighted then that this was a major setback to our reopening plans. Unfortunately, the situation is now more serious than we had realised then. As you have heard just now from my co-chairs and DMS, we are not just dealing with the KTV cluster alone, but we now also have a very large cluster from the Jurong Fishery port which has spilled over to many markets and food centres all over Singapore.

We are at a point where there is a very real risk of accelerated transmission all over the community, and the current trajectory of infection would suggest that if we were to continue with our current posture, we will see a sharp increase in infections, and many people will catch the virus.

While we have made good progress on vaccinations, we also know that there are still significant groups who are not vaccinated, including seniors. Therefore, we are very concerned that if they were to catch the virus, many people, many of our seniors will fall sick and will become severely ill.

That is our big concern. And that's why after such careful deliberation, we've decided that we have to make this pre-emptive tightening, so that we can cut back on our overall activity levels and slow down the transmission. The objective is to buy us time so that we can vaccinate more people, especially our seniors, and also for those who have been vaccinated with their first dose to rebook the appointments and complete their vaccination regime. 

So, we will adopt measures similar to what we had previously under Phase 2 (Heightened Alert). And these measures will take effect for one month from 22 July to 18 August.

Basically, just to summarise briefly, event and gathering sizes will reduce to 100 persons. We will have tighter capacity limits across public venues like shopping malls and attractions. Group sizes will reduce from five to two. And we will stop all indoor mask-off activities, including F&B dining, and gyms and fitness centres. These are the details but the general message to everyone under Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) is please stay home, minimise your movement and social interactions as much as you can.

I said that we will have these measures in place for a month, but we will review after two weeks, and we will then consider adjustments to the measures based on the overall situation then. I fully understand that many affected businesses will feel deeply, deeply disappointed by this turn of events. Many would have been looking forward earlier on to the reopening. They will have made preparations, will have started putting in place systems to differentiate customers based on vaccination status, and I am sure would be very disappointed to know that they now have to close and cannot allow for customers to dine in, especially for our F&B operators.

I hope you understand the reasons why we have to do this. And I assure you that the Government will provide a support package to all affected businesses and workers. We will take reference from what we had done earlier in Phase 2 (Heightened Alert). We are still working out the details and MOF will announce this additional support package over the coming days.

This has been a very difficult decision to make, because as you heard from Minister Ong just now, we are so close to reaching our vaccination status. And so, we deliberated over this extensively, asking ourselves whether or not it was really necessary. But based on the assessment of the way the cases have developed, the many clusters that we are seeing, and how it's likely to have transmitted into the community, we've decided that we have to put in place something to slow down the transmission.

And so, we do have to hunker down one more time to make sure that we get more people vaccinated and protected against the virus. So, let's continue to work together, get past this bump, as we have done before previously, push ahead with our vaccination programme, and we will eventually get back on track with our reopening plans. Thank you.