Residents, F&B outlets brace for life in phase two once again
Social gatherings, Hari Raya and Vesak Day set to be more muted, but experts say tighter measures needed
It was meant to be a triple celebration of sorts, but the new, tighter Covid-19 measures have thrown Mr Teo Boon Kai's plans into disarray.
The undergraduate had booked a table for seven at a Spanish restaurant two Saturdays from now - a week after the newly announced limit of five people at social gatherings kicks in, from the current eight.
"On top of a late Mother's Day celebration, we were also going to celebrate my twin brother's and my birthday," said Mr Teo, 24, who made the reservation two weeks ago. "While I am disappointed, I understand the new measures are needed to flatten the curve and stop the spread of Covid-19."
The new group size for social gatherings and other measures were announced yesterday at a virtual press conference by the multi-ministry task force tackling the pandemic.
Among them are a reduction in the number of employees allowed back in offices, closure of indoor gymnasiums and fitness studios, and restrictions in the number of people allowed at large events.
The tighter measures, which will kick in on Saturday and be in place until May 30, are aimed at stopping the spread of Covid-19 in the wider community, which has seen the number of new cases increase to 64 cases in the past week from 11 in the week before. Latest figures show 40 cases linked to the Tan Tock Seng Hospital cluster.
Education Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the task force, said the measures hark back to phase two of Singapore's gradual reopening after the circuit breaker last year.
He acknowledged that the move will cause "considerable inconvenience" given several upcoming celebrations - Mother's Day, Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Vesak Day - but urged Singaporeans to understand the need for tighter measures.
Although Singapore has tried its best to ring-fence the clusters of recent community cases, it must still assume that there are hidden cases in the community, he said. The country is also dealing with new variants that are more infectious and likely to cause larger clusters.
If Singaporeans cooperate with the new rules, the country stands a good chance of bringing case numbers down and getting the situation under control, Mr Wong added.
Meanwhile, restaurants and other food and beverage (F&B) establishments expecting big turnouts this weekend in view of Mother's Day are scrambling to adjust their bookings.
Mr Roy Tan, executive chef and owner of Daisy's Dream Kitchen at Temasek Club, said the restaurant is almost fully booked this weekend.
He said: "Mother's Day is the busiest time for us. When the new measures were announced, we started calling customers (with reservations) to get them to come in smaller groups. We also told them of our home delivery options."
Larger restaurant chains are also set to downsize reservations and even expect some to be cancelled.
But Ms Carolyn Tan, senior vice-president of Tung Lok Group, told TNP: "Even though this is a setback for the F&B community, it is just like going back to phase two. We are familiar with that, so we don't expect any major operational issues."
Mr Zaim Zahari, 32, is disappointed his family will not be able to celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri on May 13 at a restaurant.
The senior account manager, who lives in a flat with seven family members, said: "Everyone was excited about Hari Raya this year, compared to last year's muted festivities. But the mood has again dampened. My extended family is also rather large, so now we will have to pick and choose whom to visit."
Experts told TNP the measures are necessary in controlling the spread of the virus.
"The effectiveness of these measures is limited by the compliance of the people," said Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious diseases specialist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital.
"Having had the vaccine, many of us are complacent, but we need to always be conscious that we are battling a pandemic. The measures came at a good time and will control the spread of the virus," he added.
Dr Ling Li Min, an infectious diseases physician from the Rophi Clinic at Mount Elizabeth Novena, said everyone has a part to play to curb the spread.
"Wear your mask, avoid crowded areas, limit social gatherings, and get vaccinated," she said.
FOR MORE SEE:
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- Stricter rules for large events effective from Saturday until May 30
- Singapore better equipped to handle Covid situation now: Lawrence Wong
- New viral variants from India believed to have sparked TTSH cluster
- Vaccination helps protect against severe Covid-19 symptoms: MOH's Mak
- Three visitors, pharmacist and patient added to TTSH cluster
& READ THE STRAITS TIMES
Latest measures at a glance
From Saturday to May 30
- Cap of five people for social gatherings, down from current eight. Same for household visitors
- No more than 50 per cent of employees who can work from home will be allowed in offices at any time, down from 75 per cent
- No more than 250 attendees at pilot business-to-business events, cinemas, live performances
- Gyms and indoor fitness or health studios to be closed; no spectators at sports events
- Pre-event testing for wedding receptions with 50 to 250 people; no more than 30 people at all times at funerals
- Capacity limits at museums and public libraries reduced from 65 per cent to 50 per cent
From May 17
- TraceTogether token or app compulsory for entry to malls, dine-in eateries, workplaces, schools and places of worship from May 17, instead of June 1