Workplace social gatherings banned in Singapore from Sept 8; public urged to reduce non-essential social activities for two weeks

The Government has announced that 50 per cent of staff can go back to the office. — Reuters pic
The Government has announced that 50 per cent of staff can go back to the office. — Reuters pic

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SINGAPORE, Sept 6 — The authorities are urging the public to limit their social interactions to one a day, down from two, and will ban social gatherings and interactions at workplaces from today owing to a spike in Covid-19 cases in recent weeks.

Laying out these updated measures today, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said that it strongly encouraged everyone, especially vulnerable seniors and those who live with older family members, to reduce their non-essential social activities for the next two weeks.

And in addition to limiting their gatherings to one a day, whether to another household or in a public place, members of the public should continue to limit their social circles to a small group of regular contacts, the ministry added.

Speaking to reporters today, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong explained that while the tighter social interactions limit is “not enforceable”, it is meant to encourage people to scale back their non-essential interactions to once a day.

For example, while a five-person family who are all vaccinated may go out for three meals under the rules, and even do a house visit after that, Mr Wong said there could be a risk of the next super spreader event arising from such behaviour.

Hence, he urged people to exercise restraint and moderation when interacting socially with others.

“Please hold back, particularly during this period where there are so many cases and where the virus is spreading so quickly. Scale and cut back on your social interactions if possible,” he said.

The same goes for workplace interactions, said Wong, who is a co-chair of the government task force on Covid-19.

The Government has announced that 50 per cent of staff can go back to the office, and this rule still remains, said Wong.

“We are not changing that guideline, but we are asking all employers to regularly test the staff who are working on site,” he said, referring to the distribution of antigen test kits to employers.

MOH said that it would be monitoring the local situation closely for the next two weeks in view of several large clusters that have emerged in the past few weeks, including those at bus interchanges and the BHG Bugis Junction department store.

Of particular concern are recent clusters in workplace settings, which had emerged due to “lax” infection-control measures, especially in areas such as staff canteens and pantries.

These are places where people tend to let their guard down and interact without their masks on, the ministry said in explaining the impending ban on gatherings in workplaces.

Infections at workplaces

MOH also said that it would take “tougher action”, should there be infected cases among workers.

In particular, employers will be required to roll out a maximum work-from-home requirement over a 14-day period, should one or more of their workers be found to have contracted Covid-19 and have returned to their workplaces, it said.

This means that everyone in the company who can work from home must do so.

Those who are working from home should minimise social gatherings and leave their homes only for essential activities during this 14-day period.

The Ministry of Manpower will release more details about this, MOH said.

It added that everyone, including those who are vaccinated, should test themselves for Covid-19 regularly using antigen rapid self-test kits, especially if they are taking part in higher-risk activities or attending large-scale events.

The kits are available at most supermarkets and convenience stores.

MOH emphasised again that everyone’s cooperation is needed in ramping up self-testing and observing infection-control rules to lower the risk of coronavirus transmission.

“Everyone can play their role by minimising their movement and social interactions, so that we can reduce footfall at common spaces at or near the workplace and in public venues, especially when there are sharp increases in transmissions,” it said.

“If you are unwell, please see a doctor and get tested, and self-isolate and not report to work or participate in social activities until you have recovered.” — TODAY

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