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Curbs to be eased further if cases remain low: Health Minister

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Easing must be calibrated to prevent cases from surging: Health Minister

Singapore's strict safe distancing measures have helped reduce the number of coronavirus cases in the local community, and could be further eased if all goes well until June 1, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong yesterday.

But the measures must be rolled back in a "very calibrated, very careful way" to prevent cases from surging, he added, pointing to a second wave of infections experienced by many countries that relaxed too early.

The circuit breaker measures, scheduled to last till June 1, have put a lid on many activities.

Services essential to keeping the economy going will be among the first to resume, Mr Gan indicated, and more details will be available next week.

Many safe distancing measures will remain in place even after the circuit breaker period, he added.

They have been effective in controlling the spread. In the middle of last month, there were, on average, more than 30 new cases a day in the wider community. This dropped to seven cases a day in the past week.

In migrant worker dormitories, the numbers have dipped from an average of more than 1,000 to 700 in the same time frame.

The Government is drawing up a road map and will take a step-by-step approach to tackling the situation once the circuit breaker ends, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong.

One of the issues under consideration is whether or not to allow immediate family members living in different households to visit one another.

"We recognise many people would like to visit their family members... I think many want to be physically connected again and we understand the desire to do so," he said.

But Mr Wong stressed Singapore will be cautious about this, especially since it involves seniors, who are more vulnerable.

Even as Singapore works towards easing safe distancing measures, it is preparing for new cases to emerge after the circuit breaker period, said the Health Ministry.

"The key is to be able to detect these cases quickly and prevent large clusters from forming," it said. "That is why we are building up our capacity for faster contact tracing and more comprehensive testing."

Mr Wong said by the end of the month, about 20,000 migrant workers will be discharged from care facilities. Many more are expected to recover and be ready to resume work by next month.

Before they return to their dormitories, the workers may be put through serology tests to ensure they are free of Covid-19. This type of test, which can detect if an individual has had the virus in the past, will be applied to dormitories with high infection rates.

"All that, I think, is coming together, just as we ease on the restrictions of the circuit breaker and reopen the economy," Mr Wong said.

"So we are now in a good position to plan forward and ease some of the restrictions, open more, allow more workers to resume work beyond June 1, and then gradually take steps to reopen the economy."