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Transcript of Minister Lawrence Wong's Opening Remarks at The Multi-Ministry Taskforce Press Conference on 22 April 2022

22 Apr 2022

Good morning from me in New York. I would just like to elaborate on the SMMs which Minister Gan highlighted. We are making a further significant move, to ease these SMMs along the five key parameters which you are familiar with and these will take effect from the 26th of April.

First, group sizes. This is currently now at 10 persons. We will remove group size limits for mask-off activities. That means there are no longer limits on group sizes and consequently, it means if you are playing sports, there will be no group size limits. If you are visiting friends or family members, there will also be no longer limits on the number of unique visitors. 

Second, safe distancing. In line with the removal of group size limits, safe distancing will no longer be required between individuals or between groups. 

Third, capacity limits for larger events. It is currently at 75%, we will raise this to 100%, so we will effectively be removing the capacity limit for larger events and settings. The one exception would apply to nightlife businesses where there is dancing amongst patrons because of the higher risk of this activity. This will continue to be subject to a 75% capacity limit for now. 

Fourth, workplace requirements. Everyone can return to the workplace, so it will be an increase from the current limit of 75% of those who can work-from-home. Basically, back to pre-Covid, everyone can return to work. But while work-from-home may not be needed as a public health requirement, we continue to encourage all employers to retain and to promote flexible work arrangements and some form of practical work-from-home arrangements for their employees. 

Finally, mask-wearing. This will largely remain as it is, and we have said before that mask-wearing is effective, and it will be one of the last few measures that we will do away with. Mask-wearing will largely remain the same which means outdoors it is optional, but mask-wearing continues indoors. But we will make some adjustments to the mask-wearing requirements for workplaces in particular. Now that we are allowing everyone to go back to work, we will adjust the mask-on requirements in the indoor setting for workplaces, such that workers will be allowed to remove their masks at the workplace under two conditions. One, they are not physically interacting with one another, and two, they are not in customer facing areas where interaction is likely to happen. So if you are just back to office in your workstation working, then we will allow you to take off your mask because it will be very hard to be back at work throughout the day and then wearing a mask and working. Therefore, this flexibility is extended for such an occasion, but we will continue to encourage everyone to exercise responsibility and if you take off your mask when you are working, ensure that you are maintaining a safe distance from your colleagues and obviously do not gather together in a crowded setting. As I said just now, this would apply under those two conditions which is that you are not interacting physically with one another and you are not in a customer-facing area where interaction is likely to happen. 

These are the key moves around the SMMs one to five. All in all, it is a very significant step forward in our journey to live with COVID. It has been more than two years since we raised the alert to DORSCON Orange in February 2020. Since then, we have gone through a lot together. Remember, when we first did this, more than two years ago, we had to deal with panic buying. We have gone through circuit breaker. We have gone through heightened alerts. We have gone through many rounds of restrictions. Two years is not that long, but it somehow feels like a lifetime ago because so much has happened and we have been through so much together. By working together, we have been able to keep everyone in Singapore safe, to protect lives and livelihoods and to achieve one of the lowest COVID-19 fatality rates in the world. 

I echo my colleagues in saying that we could not have done all this without the contributions of each and every person in Singapore, especially, of course, our healthcare and frontline officers, as well as many unsung heroes across all walks of life. Indeed, everyone has played a part in this effort, and so we thank you all for your contributions and your support. With these changes, we can now have a well-deserved breather after two very difficult years of fighting the virus. 

But let us always remember we are getting closer to the finish line, but the race is not over, and the pandemic is certainly not over. A new variant will emerge sooner or later, as you have heard just now from Minister Ong and DMS. No one can predict what this next variant will be and if need be, we may very well have to tighten our restrictions or reinstate TraceTogether and SafeEntry. As Minister Ong said just now, our mantra or the approach that we are taking, is step down but not dismantle. We must keep our systems warm so that we can activate them later on if the need arises. We hope everyone understands this, so that if and when we need to tighten, you will be mentally and psychologically prepared for such future scenarios. But for now, let us all cherish the hard-earned relaxations and resume more normal lives. Let us continue to exercise personal and social responsibility, keep faith with one another and see through this pandemic together. Thank you.