[Last updated: Dec 11, 10:00am]
We have been in Phase 2 of the reopening of the economy since June 19.
When Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the task force for Covid-19, raised the possibility of Singapore moving into Phase 3 before end of this year in October, we saw a glimmer of hope.
However, this is on the account that we meet various conditions. The three key conditions are the higher adoption of TraceTogether, compliance with safe management measures, and sufficient testing capabilities.
Things were looking positive when Singaporeans celebrated zero community cases for 16 days straight. However, a new local transmission has emerged on November 25 and may possibly delay the entry to the next phase.
Coupled with relaxed and careless observance of social distancing measures, it makes me wonder if we have been jeopardising our chances of moving forward to the next phase?
Here’s a look at what we need to do to transition to Phase 3.
We Need To Continue Adhering To Covid-19 Measures
Don’t “Game” The System
There was the recent case of a 32-year-old Singaporean man who tested positive for Covid-19 after having dinner with 12 other family members at Seoul Garden’s Tampines Mall outlet on November 21.
Among those present was his two-year-old niece who had earlier been issued a five-day medical certificate for a runny nose.
It was reported that there was mingling between the groups, which is a breach of safe distancing measures.
As a result, the outlet was ordered to close for 10 days for flouting Covid-19 safe management rules.
This reminded us that this could be just one of many cases that have taken place as we become more lax with the measures.
Personally, I’ve also witnessed Singaporeans trying to “game” the rules while dining out, such as turning up in groups larger than five and then splitting themselves into multiple groups.
Businesses Should Not Accept Rule-Flouting Customers
Seoul Garden’s suspension is the third such one in the last week imposed by the government.
On Friday (Dec 4), Gemma Steakhouse at National Gallery Singapore was ordered to close for 20 days for hosting a Halloween-themed dinner, which was attended by about 75 people who had mingled between tables.
On Saturday (Dec 5), the Foot Locker outlet at Orchard Gateway@Emerald was ordered to suspend operations for 10 days after crowds gathered at the outlet on Friday night, apparently for the launch of a limited-edition sneaker on Saturday.
What happened to social distancing? It is evident that we have laxed in the 1-metre distancing, especially in queues.
While it is our responsibility to adhere to the group limits and social distancing rules, merchants and businesses need to be stricter in this aspect and refuse entry to rule-flouting customers if need be.
The government also needs to crack down more harshly on people who are not wearing their masks properly, or not observing Covid-19 measures.
To ensure that the situation in Singapore remains under control, we will have to keep up the habits and practices of the past few months.
TraceTogether Participation Rate Must Be At Least 70%
Secondly, the TraceTogether programme must have a participation rate of about 70 per cent, up from the current rate of more than 60 per cent, in order for Phase 3 to begin.
So far, more than 3.4 million people have already signed up for the TraceTogether programme.
It plays a key role in contact tracing efforts which, in themselves, are important for Singapore to reopen safely.
While the use of SafeEntry has strengthened the ability to detect COVID-19 clusters quickly, greater participation in the TraceTogether programme is required to help identify close contacts of COVID-19 positive cases.
TraceTogether-only Safe Entry, where visitors are required to either scan the QR code using the TraceTogether app or present the TraceTogether token, must also be expanded.
This will ensure that persons visiting places where people are likely to be in contact for prolonged periods, or where human traffic is high, have either the TraceTogether app or token.
TraceTogether-only Safe Entry will be gradually introduced at workplaces, schools and public venues such as cinemas.
TraceTogether tokens are currently available for collection at Community Centres/ Clubs (CCs). If you have yet to collect yours, you can check TokenGoWhere website for nearby distribution locations.
Phase 3 Does Not Mean A Return To Pre-COVID Times
It is evident that the virus is still lurking in the community and we have not warded ourselves of it just yet.
Until the virus is under control with widely available vaccines, we must be prepared to stay in Phase 3 for a prolonged period, potentially over a year.
However, if we put in more enablers, more activities can gradually resume under Phase 3.
There has been a resurgence of Covid-19 in other countries such as Hong Kong as they open up to more activities or due to lack of adherence to safe management measures.
This is why the Singapore-Hong Kong Air Travel Bubble, which was already underway, had to be postponed.
Moreover, with the release of the SingapoRediscovers vouchers, it means that more citizens will be thronging the attractions.
This further emphasises the need to adhere to the Covid-19 measures to keep the community infections as low as possible and be prepared for Phase 3.
Featured Image Credit: Reuters