Groups of five diners may be allowed from next week: Lawrence Wong
Extra measures to curb recent outbreak in community cases have worked, says minister
Larger groups of five people can be expected to be allowed to dine in together from next Monday, as Singapore eases measures and opens up further from a recent outbreak in community cases, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong told Parliament yesterday.
"These additional measures have worked in curbing the spread of the virus, while allowing most parts of the economy to continue operating," he said.
"So that is why we started to ease the restrictions from June 14, when we moved from phase two to phase three (heightened alert); and we expect to open up further from July 12 to allow larger groups of five people to dine together."
Mr Wong was giving an update on the Government's support measures for businesses and workers affected by tightened Covid-19 restrictions, and how they will be financed.
In his speech, he said more calibrated measures were adopted to deal with new Covid-19 clusters that formed in early to mid-May, unlike the economywide circuit breaker measures last year.
The clusters in May were "most notably" at Tan Tock Seng Hospital and Changi Airport. There was also a sustained increase in unlinked community cases, he said.
To protect Singaporeans and control the spread of the Sars-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19, the country moved into phase two (heightened alert) on May 16, said Mr Wong, who is co-chair of the multi-ministry task force handling the outbreak.
Measures introduced were aimed at reducing transmission risks in indoor settings where people do not have masks on, and where there is a higher chance of large clusters forming.
After a month of stepped-up precautions saw an eventual dip in cases, the authorities said on June 10 that Singapore would gradually reopen and move to phase three (heightened alert).
From June 14, the cap on social gatherings was raised from two people to five.
Dining in at eateries resumed a week later, in groups of up to two people.
Last Thursday, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said the next relaxation of Covid-19 measures was expected on July 12.
In his speech yesterday, Mr Wong said he understands people's desire to go back to how things were before the pandemic, including travelling overseas for leisure, playing sports, attending events at entertainment venues and going without masks. However, he said the reality is that Covid-19 is unlikely to go away any time soon.
"But with vaccination and improvements in treatment, we can make Sars-CoV-2 look more like influenza in terms of morbidity and mortality."
He said the target is for two-thirds of Singapore's population to be fully vaccinated by National Day on Aug 9.
"It is an ambitious target. But we are making steady progress towards it. We are also going all out to engage our seniors and get more of them vaccinated."
With high vaccination rates, the economy will be able to reopen safely, he said.