The Multi-Ministry Taskforce announced on 19 May 2020 that we will exit the Circuit Breaker when it ends on 1 June, with a controlled approach to resume activities safely over three phases. Seniors are especially vulnerable and should continue to take extra precautions after the Circuit Breaker.
Phase 1 (“Safe Opening”)
2. In Phase 1, with more activities and interactions, there will likely be a higher risk of community transmission. Therefore seniors should continue to stay at home as much as possible. We will continue with most Circuit Breaker measures for seniors in Phase 1, to ensure that they stay safe.
Families as first line of support
3. Family support for seniors remains important. Therefore we will allow family members to visit their parents or grandparents staying elsewhere in Phase 1. However, this is capped at two visitors from the same visiting household per day to minimise risk of exposure. Dropping off children at parents’ and grandparents’ homes for childcare will also be allowed, subject to the same limit. This is on top of the existing provisions for informal childcare arrangements for essential workers. Seniors should not leave their houses to visit family members, as this will increase their risk of infection e.g. while commuting. The restrictions are necessary to keep our elderly parents and grandparents safe.
Essential services will continue
4. Essential services such as residential care services, home care, and meals support will continue operations. All centre-based care services will remain suspended, except for designated centres which will serve seniors without alternative caregiving arrangements. We will increase the number of designated centres if there are more such seniors requiring these services as caregivers return to work. We recognise the challenges of balancing caregiving and work responsibilities, especially for caregivers of persons with dementia. Caregivers who require support may reach out to the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) at 1800-650-6060 or their enrolled centres for assistance.
Senior-centric activities continue to be suspended
5. All senior-centric activities organised by the People’s Association, Health Promotion Board, SportSG and the Council for Third Age will remain suspended. All other activities that involve physical interactions amongst seniors, such as interest groups, events, and other gatherings targeted at seniors should also continue to be suspended. We do recognise that this prolonged suspension may cause seniors with little or no social support to feel isolated, even as the suspensions help keep all seniors safe. Hence we will gradually resume some activities for clients of Senior Activity Centres (SACs) and Community Resource, Engagement and Support Team (CREST) providers to address their psychosocial wellbeing. In order to keep interactions low, these will be limited to activities that can be done individually (e.g. craftwork, reading, gardening), and with restrictions on the activity duration and total number of persons per session. SACs, CREST, befriending and counselling services will continue phone check-ins on their clients, and home visits will resume. Together, these services and activities will enable us to support vulnerable seniors. See Annex A for list of services in operation in Phase 1.
Protection for eldercare sector
6. We have progressively tightened precautionary measures in eldercare services and senior-centric programmes since January. These include strict infection prevention and control, safe distancing, split zones, contact tracing, and active testing. In particular, frail seniors living in residential care homes are most vulnerable, and we want to keep the risk of bringing infection into the homes low. Hence face-to-face visits in residential homes will continue to be suspended. We recognise that this is difficult for seniors and their loved ones, and AIC will continue supporting homes to use phone or video calls for them to keep in touch. This has been a challenging period for seniors, families, and service providers, and the collective vigilance has helped to keep numbers low. These measures are necessary to ensure that seniors may tide through COVID-19 safely, and we will continue to make adjustments as needed.
Surveillance testing to detect cases in eldercare sector early
7. We will continue to complement our precautionary measures with surveillance testing. This allows us to pick up cases early and to limit further transmission. We conducted tests for all staff of residential care homes earlier and testing of all residents is underway. These initial sweeps will guide the approach for future surveillance in residential care homes. We will also conduct tests for staff of non-residential care services, namely designated eldercare centres and day hospices, kidney dialysis centres, and home care providers.
8. Together with the Ministry of Social and Family Development and National Council of Social Service, we will continue to ensure tight coordination among community partners such as charities, social service agencies and ground-up groups, so that help continues to reach those in need, while keeping everyone safe. AIC will also continue to check in on seniors via phone to refer them to assistance as needed.
Phases 2 (“Safe Transition”) and 3 (“Safe Nation”)
9. Adopting a more conservative approach in Phase 1 will allow us to better manage the risks to seniors. If the community transmission rate remains low and stable in the subsequent few weeks, we expect to be able to resume more activities in Phase 2. This includes reviewing the restrictions on visits at residential care homes as well as among different households, and increasing the activities of centre-based care services.
10. Depending on the COVID-19 situation and our risk assessment, we will continue to ease measures gradually and eventually reach a new normal in Phase 3. Seniors can resume day-to-day activities and we can allow social activities in small groups, with safe distancing measures and other precautions remaining in place. Seniors can then look forward to activities like cooking classes and fitness programmes again. More details on the range of activities and services to be resumed in Phases 2 and 3 will be announced later.
Working Together to be COVID-safe
Seniors and caregivers must stay vigilant
11. Everyone has a part to play in keeping Singapore COVID-safe. We urge families and neighbours to continue assisting seniors with essential activities, so they may avoid going out. If seniors must go out, they should avoid crowded places (e.g. wet markets) and peak hour travel. Family members visiting should maintain good personal hygiene including washing hands frequently with soap, and safe distancing where possible. It is very important to minimise physically interact with seniors at all if unwell. See Annex B for a summary of precautionary measures for seniors and families.
Support seniors at work
12. Employers should enable seniors to work from home as far as possible. For senior workers who cannot work from home, companies should ensure that safe distancing measures such as spacing out workstations, staggering work timing, and temperature screening, are implemented. All workers must be vigilant in adhering to safe distancing measures, such as washing hands frequently, dining alone, and minimising interactions with co-workers.
Preparing for better times
13. In order to resume these activities that we enjoy, we must continue to be vigilant. Stay home, avoid crowds, and stay in contact with your friends and family remotely as far as possible.
MINISTRY OF HEALTH
22 MAY 2020