10 The last and most important lesson we have learnt from other countries, is that we cannot be complacent, as there is always the risk of a second wave of the virus. We have seen a steady decline in community cases, to 4 cases per day in the past week.
11 But we should be mindful that this is likely the effect of the circuit breaker. We expect to see a rise in new community cases as the activity levels and person-to-person interactions increase after circuit breaker. The Multi-Ministry Task Force has therefore taken a cautious and graduated approach to ensure safe opening in Phase One.
13 We have also worked with the dormitory operators to strengthen management practices, so that workers can live safely in the dormitories. These include tighter control of entry and exit, measures to limit inter-mixing of residents between blocks and levels, and staggered use of common facilities. Only those workers who have recovered or tested negative will be allowed to leave the dormitories. Even then, it would initially only be for the purpose of work, and with tight arrangements to transport them to and from work. We will also strengthen health surveillance by conducting regular testing of the residents and having them report their health conditions daily. Any residents that test positive, and their close contacts, will be isolated expeditiously.
14 While the number of cases we detect among the migrant worker population may remain high for some time, some of them may be past infections and are not active cases.
16 However, social gatherings are still not allowed, and everyone should only leave home for essential activities and should continue wearing a mask when doing so.
17 The Multi-Ministry Task Force will closely monitor Phase One. If the community transmission rates remain low and stable, and the dormitory situation continues to be under control, we can move to Phase Two.
18 In Phase Two, a broader range of activities will resume, and we expect most of the economy to be able to re-open. In response to Mr Chong Kee Hiong and Mr Lim Biow Chuan’s questions, retail, food and beverage dine-in services, as well as personal, health and wellness and home-based services will resume in Phase Two, subject to safe management measures being in place. Some may start earlier, others may need a little bit more time to put in place the necessary safeguards.
20 However, to ensure that we do not undo the efforts of the circuit breaker period, we will continue to adopt a more cautious approach for higher-risk activities, such as those involving large numbers of people interacting with one another in enclosed spaces for prolonged periods of time. These include religious services, cultural venues such as arts performances, cinemas, museums and libraries. Nightclubs and bars, karaoke outlets and other public entertainment establishments have high risk factors. Overseas and local experience have indicated that these settings can seed large clusters of transmission. At least 255 cases were linked to a nightclub cluster in South Korea’s Itaewon entertainment district in early May. In Singapore, the Hero’s Bar cluster is another example. Organisers of these activities and business owners would need to convince relevant agencies that they have robust plans to ensure safety, before we let them open.
21 If community transmissions remain low and well contained, we will continue to ease measures and even increase the pace until we reach a new COVID-safe normal in Phase Three, which we expect to remain in until an effective vaccine or treatment is developed.
22 We understand the anxiety that our people are facing, and are acutely aware of the economic and social impact of prolonged closure of various sectors. All of us want to get back to normal as soon as possible, as quickly as possible, and to be able to see our friends and family members whom we have not seen for some time. However, if we resume too many activities too quickly, there is a real risk of a resurgence of COVID-19 cases or clusters, which may require us to re-impose strict measures and slow down the pace of resumption..
23 As restrictions are eased and more activities resumed, it becomes even more critical that each of us exercises strong social responsibility to ensure that community transmission remains low. We need everyone to play their part: wear a mask when outside your home, maintain good personal hygiene and observe safe opening measures. Our combined efforts will help facilitate our journey of safe transition and together, we can keep Singapore COVID-safe.