No let up in enforcement of safety rules during Phase 3: Lawrence Wong
He warns against complacency before and during festive period, says checks will continue with enforcement officers on the ground
Even as Singapore moves into phase three of its reopening on Dec 28, enforcement against those who flout the rules will not let up, warned Education Minister Lawrence Wong yesterday.
Highlighting recent "near-misses" where infected individuals had breached the rules and could have caused large clusters to form, the co-chairman of the multi-ministry task force said the resumption of more activities and the ability to gather in larger groups should be seen as a privilege not to be abused.
"We are indeed concerned that... in the run up to Dec 28 and even past Dec 28, there will be groups of people who let their guard down," Mr Wong said.
"Because it is the festive period, there is a tendency to get into a celebratory mood and all the more, the risk of complacency sets in," he added.
In phase three, the permitted group size for social gatherings will go up from five to eight, and capacity limits in public places such as malls, attractions and places of worship will also be increased.
Mr Wong emphasised that the usual checks at hot spots will continue, with safe distancing ambassadors and enforcement officers on the ground to remind the public of measures and to conduct inspections.
Enforcement action will be taken without hesitation, whether against individuals, hotels, or food and beverage (F&B) establishments, he said.
A few incidents involving large gatherings have made headlines in recent weeks, just as Singapore has recorded zero cases of local transmissions on most days.
Shoe retailer Foot Locker was ordered to close its Orchard Gateway outlet for 10 days after large crowds had gathered for a sneaker launch earlier this month, while Gemma Steakhouse was shut for 20 days after it held a dinner for 75 guests.
Last month, a 32-year-old service engineer tested positive for Covid-19 after having dinner with 12 other family members at Seoul Garden, where they intermingled despite being seated at separate tables.
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said the authorities expect the risk of infections to go up as Singapore continues to reopen.
"That means the enforcement, the discipline, has to be strengthened and tightened so that we can continue to contain the risk and keep the number of cases as low as possible."
Meanwhile, to better manage crowds during the year-end festive season and the period leading up to Chinese New Year on Feb 12, Enterprise Singapore will work with major retailers here to improve their layouts, said Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing.
For F&B operators, yesterday's news was the perfect year-end gift, even as they remain wary of the black sheep who continue to test the rules.
Mr Shawn Kishore, co-founder of Central Asian restaurant The Nomads, hailed the news.
While safe distancing rules such as the 1m separation among tables, the use of masks when not eating or drinking, and no intermingling between groups will continue to apply, the increase from five to eight people per table means his team are revising the seating and reservation plan in time for Dec 28.
"We've been planning for this... phase three is the best news this year," he said.
Mr Melvin Chew, creator of Facebook group Hawkers United - Dabao 2020, said the move will benefit restaurants and tze char stalls that have been waiting to see if they can seat groups of eight during Chinese New Year before putting up their menus.
The Restaurant Association of Singapore said the move to phase three will help to sustain businesses and preserve jobs.
A spokesman said: "While we had hoped for this phase to be opened in time for Christmas, we understand the authorities may want the longer lead time to ensure everyone is prepared to receive more diners."