To move towards Phase Three, testing and tracing efforts must be scaled up while everyone continues to adhere to the safe management measures. In this way, more activities can progressively resume while community transmissions are kept low.
Phase Three does not mean a return to pre-COVID times. Until the virus is under control with widely available vaccines, we must be prepared to stay in Phase Three for a prolonged period, potentially over a year. However, if we put in more enablers, more activities can gradually resume under Phase Three.
Key Enablers for Phase Three
1. Continued Adherence to Safe Management Measures
There has been a resurgence of COVID-19 in other countries as they open up to more activities or due to lack of adherence to safe management measures. To ensure that the situation in Singapore remains under control, we will have to keep up the habits and practices of the past few months.
|Small group sizes||Limits on group sizes will continue, both in public spaces and visitors to the home.|
|Safe distancing||Requirements on safe distancing will continue to disallow or minimise interactions between groups.|
|Social responsibility||Mask-wearing and personal hygiene protect us and others from COVID-19. Those with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should seek medical attention at the earliest opportunity and follow up with a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) swab test if instructed by the doctor.|
2. Pre-event Testing
To allow more activities to resume safely, the Multi-Ministry Taskforce (MMTF) is piloting the use of pre-event testing for larger-scale and higher-risk activities.
Due to the need for a shorter turnaround, the use of antigen rapid tests is being explored for pre-event testing. With its lower sensitivity compared to the PCR test, safe management measures including mask-wearing and safe distancing will still be in place.
From mid-October to December 2020, pre-event testing will take place at wedding receptions, live performances and sports events, among others. Feedback from the events will be used to finetune processes, and the Ministry of Health (MOH) will assess which can be implemented more widely.
3. Expansion of Digital Contact Tracing Tools
While the use of SafeEntry has strengthened the ability to detect COVID-19 clusters quickly, greater participation in the TraceTogether Programme is required to help identify close contacts of COVID-19 positive cases.
Consequently, a higher take-up rate for TraceTogether is needed before Phase Three can begin. This will enable MOH to quickly contact trace and ringfence any infections.
TraceTogether-only Safe Entry, where visitors are required to either scan the QR code using the TraceTogether App or present the TraceTogether Token, must also be expanded.
This will ensure that persons visiting places where people are likely to be in contact for prolonged periods, or where human traffic is high, have either the TraceTogether App or Token. TraceTogether-only Safe Entry will be gradually introduced at workplaces, schools and public venues such as cinemas.
TraceTogether tokens are available for collection at 38 Community Centres/ Clubs (CCs), and are expected to be available at all 108 CCs by end-November 2020. Head down to the TokenGoWhere website to locate a convenient site for collection.
Moving to Phase Three
With these enablers in place and everyone’s cooperation, we will be able to move to Phase Three. However, the exact timing of these changes will depend on our collective ability to cooperate with the requirements.
1. Increasing Group Size
In Phase Three, the group size for gatherings outside the home and number of visitors allowed to homes could be increased from the present 5 persons to 8 persons.
2. Increasing Capacity Limits
Public venues such as museums are currently open but subject to a capacity limit, while events like wedding receptions can be held in two zones of 50 persons. In Phase Three, these capacity limits could be increased, with events having multiple zones of 50 persons.
These adjustments will have to be done in a controlled way and additional measures would apply for specific settings. For example, wedding receptions are higher-risk activities, where many people are gathered for a meal. Any expansion in the number of attendees would require additional safety measures, including a pre-event test.
3. Considerations for Activities in Higher-Risk Settings
Higher-risk settings like bars, pubs, karaoke lounges and nightclubs are closed as their activities pose a higher risk of transmission. Though these activities are unlikely to resume at the start of Phase Three, the MMTF is considering a few limited pilots with a more stringent set of measures to explore how the industry could resume safely. Where there is non-resumption, the Government will put in place an assistance package to help business operators transit to new areas.
4. Facilitating travel and re-opening of borders
As a key international and travel hub, Singapore cannot keep our borders closed and needs to gradually allow more travel to resume safely.
Presently, travelers from low-risk countries/ regions are allowed to enter Singapore with a COVID-19 test instead of a Stay-Home Notice (SHN), while those from higher-risk countries/ regions are required to serve a SHN at home or at dedicated facilities. The MMTF is exploring ways to deploy more frequent testing to allow more travelers to safely enter Singapore without serving a SHN.
In line with the progressive move to reopen our borders, all Singaporeans, Permanent Residents and Long-Term Pass Holders will now be allowed to access government subsidies and insurance coverage for their medical bills.
Road to Phase Three and Beyond
Even as these adjustments are made, the MMTF will also continue to explore vaccines, treatment, testing and other technologies which could enable us to further ease restrictions and resume travel safely.