Phase three close, but party may be over for nightspots
High-risk nightlife sector unlikely to resume 'any time soon', but businesses will get help to pivot to new areas
Even when Singapore eventually enters phase three of its reopening, bars, pubs, karaoke lounges and nightclubs may have to remain closed.
At a virtual press conference yesterday, the multi-ministry task force laid out a road map to phase three, which could happen before the end of the year if conditions allow.
The conditions include no new Covid-19 clusters, few community cases, a step-up in testing and contact tracing, and adherence to safe management measures.
More measures will also be in place during phase three, which could last more than a year, to mitigate the risks as more activities are opened up. Group sizes for gatherings are expected to increase to eight people from the current limit of five.
The Health Ministry said phase three will not return to life as before but will instead see new ways of working and living until the rest of the world has Covid-19 under control.
With restrictions expected to continue, many businesses in the nightlife sector are unlikely to reopen in their original form.
Education Minister Lawrence Wong, co-chair of the task force, highlighted the sector as a higher-risk setting.
"We've seen it in many other countries where large clusters break out in these sorts of settings," he said.
"So even when we enter phase three, we do not expect to reopen or resume these activities any time soon."
He added, however, that the task force was prepared to consider pilots for these settings, with more stringent safe management measures in place.
The Government will also help those who are unable to resume business with an assistance package to exit, transit and pivot to new areas.
Singapore Nightlife Business Association president Joseph Ong told The New Paper last night that the revelation would be disappointing for some, but it was not entirely surprising.
"I would say that two-thirds of the industry have already found ways to reopen in new forms, with some of them thriving," he said.
"So this would affect only a certain portion that is just really unable to operate."
Mr Ong said he was looking forward to see what kind of support would be available.
"We have to start thinking of things in the new normal," he added. "It is not the end of nightlife. Unbridled intermingling will change, but when it comes to celebrations, the energy and friends, those are still the same."
Alcohol suppliers said that while they have also been affected, they are confident the industry will correct itself.
Mr Shaun Wee, 39, sales director at Moet Hennessy Diageo Singapore, said consumers and businesses have adapted.
"We may be affected when it comes to certain brands that are dependent on nightlife and clubs, but people are still drinking," he said.
"Whether it is at home or different venues now, consumption is still there. Demand may have dropped initially, but there have been new opportunities such as e-commerce, which is booming."
Business owners who spoke to TNP said they are anxious to see what the assistance package will offer them.
Mr Rob Collins, 46, owner of Dorothy's Bar in Chinatown and Offshore F & B at Kovan, said the bar has been closed since entertainment venues were told to shut on March 26.
"We've been trying everything, and I am willing to do whatever the authorities ask," he said.
"If they ask me to pivot to more of a cafe style, I can do that. It is not about selling drinks, it is about getting the business open again."
The era of phase three
Enablers for phase three:
- Follow safe management measures
- Small groups, safe distancing, social responsibility
- Scaled-up testing, including pilot of antigen rapid tests before events
- Higher use of TraceTogether with SafeEntry
Possible measures to come in phase three:
- Gatherings outside home increase to maximum of eight
- Visitors to homes also up from five to eight
- Capacity at venues, attractions may increase from current 50
- Events may have multiple zones of 50 people
- Pre-event tests for guests at some events