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Transcript of Minister Lawrence Wong's Opening Remarks at The Multi-Ministry Taskforce Press Conference on 10 June 2021

10 Jun 2021
Good afternoon. I'd like to add my thanks to everyone in Singapore for your forbearance and cooperation, which has enabled us to bring this latest outbreak under control. As my fellow co-chairs have shared, we did not go into a full and painful circuit breaker to control this latest round of outbreaks. Instead, we took a targeted approach in identifying and managing the key areas of risk, and we coupled that with aggressive testing, extensive contact tracing and accelerated vaccination. This strategy has proven to be effective in bringing cases down, and in controlling the spread. So now we are able to exit Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) and resume more activities, and we will do so in a controlled manner and in two stages.

The first stage will happen from 14th of June, on Monday. What are some of the moves we will make? We will, as you heard just now, increase the current social gathering group size from two persons to five persons. We will increase the cap on the number of distinct visitors per household per day, likewise to five persons, and we continue to encourage everyone to limit the number of social gatherings to no more than two a day. So group sizes generally will go from two to five.

For venues like attractions, museums and public libraries, we will increase the current capacity from 25% to 50%. For gatherings and events, we will also increase the size limits. This will apply to situations like MICE, sports events, cinemas, congregational services, as well as marriage solemnisations. Generally, for these types of settings, the guideline will be: you can proceed with 50 attendees without pre-event testing, but with pre-event testing, you can go up to 250 attendees.

There are some settings where masks are not worn, but these tend to be lower risk, because people are not talking, and so we will resume activities in such settings. That will apply, for example, to facial services, as well as to taking photographs during a marriage solemnisation – so you will be able to do that from 14th of June. So that covers the first stage of reopening.

The second stage will happen from the week after, on the 21st of June. Then, we will resume dining-in at F&B outlets and establishments, with the maximum group size of five applied in these settings. We will also resume other higher risk activities without mask on, and these will include activities in gyms, fitness studios, other types of mask-off sports activities, in-person tuition and enrichment classes which also have been higher risk – we will allow all of these to resume from 21st of June onwards. Wedding receptions and banquets will also be allowed to restart, with a maximum of 100 attendees, including the wedding couple, and with pre-event testing required.

We will still require everyone to work from home as a default during this period, even in the coming weeks. So employers should ensure that employees who are able to work from home continue to do so, and should continue to stagger the start time of the employees and implement flexible working hours. We think that’s still necessary in order to minimise movement, and to minimise risk.

Some businesses will be effectively closed for another week, because of this two-stage reopening process. So we will continue to extend the Jobs Support Scheme to them during this period. With increased activity levels, as we reopen and resume more activities, we must be prepared to see more cases. Because, as we all know, there are still hidden cases in the community, which can easily flare up, especially with this highly transmissible variant. We won't be able to eradicate all of these hidden or cryptic cases in the community, so we will have to learn to live with the virus, and then try our best to minimise transmission and minimise the risk of large clusters breaking out.

How do we do this? First, we must continue to ensure compliance with all the safe distancing rules and safe management measures, especially in higher risk settings, like F&B outlets where people do not have their masks on. So while I understand that F&B operators will be disappointed that they have to wait one more week before they can reopen. I would ask all of them to make use of the one week to really go through their processes, their protocols, make sure that their restaurant layouts comply fully with the rules, that diners, when they come in, would be one meter apart at least, and have good ventilation in their restaurants because we know that these are high risk settings.

Second, we will introduce more regular testing. We will require this for all staff who work at high risk settings without their masks on. That will include dining in F&B establishments, facial services, saunas, gyms and fitness studios, so anyone working in these kinds of settings will have to go for regular testing with the rapid antigen test kits that we've talked about. So we will introduce this new fast and effective testing regime for high risk workers. The details of how to go about the testing will be announced later.

Third, we will have faster and more comprehensive contact tracing, as we have been doing this past few weeks. So each time we pick up a positive case, we will move in quickly with surge testing, and with a very wide ring fence to contain the spread of the virus. This means that more people will have to be tested, potentially more people will be issued quarantine orders or even mandatory stay home requirements. And each time we pick up a positive case, we may have to subject that workplace, the F&B outlet, or even the entire mall to closures, perhaps for two weeks in order to ensure that that case doesn’t spread out into the rest of the community.

In other words, we will take more aggressive, localised actions, and we will try our very best to avoid having to impose general nation-wide restrictions like another Circuit Breaker. We think that is the way to live with the virus while enabling most activities to resume.

So with all the moves I have just described over this two-stage process, we will essentially be moving back to Phase 3 (Heightened Alert). It is not quite the full Phase 3. We call this Phase 3 (Heightened Alert) because there are still these restrictions in place. And that is because we are reopening in a cautious and controlled manner, and maintaining very strict controls at our borders. We need all of these controls in place until our vaccination rates are higher.

Look at the experience in America as an example. More than 40% of people in America are fully vaccinated, two doses, and about 10% of them have been infected with the virus. So we are talking about an immunity of about 50% or more, slightly more. And with that coverage, already you can see that their infection rates are steadily coming down. We are not there yet, but we will get there soon. We expect 50% of the people in Singapore to be fully vaccinated in August. And by October, we should reach an overall vaccination rate of 75%, or hopefully more.

So as we progress through these stages, we will ease our restrictions and gradually restore our normal lives, both within Singapore and at our borders. Then we will move to Phase 3, and even beyond Phase 3 to a new normal phase of living with endemic COVID. Meanwhile, let’s continue to stay focused, united and work together so that we can reopen safely.

Let me just say a few words in Mandarin to wrap up.


首先,非常感谢大家配合我们的防疫措施。由于大家的合作,目前的整体情况有所改 善。因此,接下来,我们将分两个阶段,放宽防疫措施。

第一阶段,从 6 月 14 日起,聚会人数将从目前的两人,提高到五人。每户家庭每天能 接待的访客也从两人提高到五人。参加宗教活动等大型活动的人数限制也将提高,而 且必须进行活动前检测。此外,风险比较低的美容护理等服务,也可以恢复。但是, 大家应该继续尽量在家办公。

第二阶段,从 6 月 21 日起,我们将开放更多风险比较高的活动,包括脱下口罩才能进 行的活动。这包括,全面恢复堂食,每组最多五人,每组之间要保持安全距离。健身 房也可以恢复室内的活动,而婚宴也可以恢复,顶限为 100 人,而且必须进行活动前 检测。

我之前宣布,我们推出总值 8 亿元的配套来帮助这段期间受影响的商家和群体。

由于一些商家在第一阶段还是无法全面营业,我们将在这段期间继续为他们提供更高 的雇佣补贴。