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No group size limits from April 26; all workers can return to workplace, may remove mask in certain situations

SINGAPORE — The cap on group sizes will be lifted along with safe distancing and all workers may return to their workplaces from next Tuesday (April 26), with employees allowed to remove their masks when indoors at the workplace under certain conditions.

No group size limits from April 26; all workers can return to workplace, may remove mask in certain situations
From April 26, 2022, people will not need to keep to a group of 10 persons for mask-off activities.
  • From April 26, the Government will lower the Dorscon level from orange to yellow
  • This means that Covid-19 is spreading in Singapore but is typically mild or being contained
  • There will be no more limits on group sizes
  • All workers may return to their workplaces and will be allowed to remove their masks at the workplace under certain conditions
  • Mask-wearing will continue to be required in indoor settings when people leave their homes, including on public transport

SINGAPORE — The cap on group sizes will be lifted along with safe distancing and all workers may return to their workplaces from next Tuesday (April 26), with employees allowed to remove their masks when indoors at the workplace under certain conditions.

The relaxation of these nationwide Covid-19 regulations came just as the Ministry of Health (MOH) said in a statement on Friday that Singapore will lower its Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (Dorscon) from orange to yellow level next Tuesday. 

This is because daily Covid-19 cases and hospitalisation cases had declined steadily in the last week. 

The ministry said that the seven-day moving average of daily local case numbers has fallen from around 18,300 at its peak to under 3,100 in the past week.

The number of hospitalisation cases has fallen from 1,726 at its peak to 266. The number of patients under intensive care due to reasons related to Covid-19 is also in the single digits, it added.

Mask-wearing will continue to be required in indoor settings when people leave their homes, including on public transport.

"Mask-wearing will remain optional in outdoor settings. However, we encourage individuals to exercise precaution. For example, in crowded outdoor areas, it will still be a good idea to wear our masks," MOH said.

Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong said during a press conference by the national Covid-19 task force on Friday that the lowering of Dorscon, which is a colour-coded framework for Singapore's crisis management plan, marks "a significant milestone in (the country's Covid-19) journey". 

"We raised our Dorscon level to orange in February 2020 due to a rise in unlinked local cases at that time and we expected significant disruption to daily routine given our focus on isolation to contain transmission. Today, the situation has changed.

"Even though the virus is more prevalent, most infections are mild as a result of our high vaccination coverage. Our simplified healthcare protocols and safe management measures are expected to cause minimal disruption to our lives.

"Therefore, the time is right for us to step down our Dorscon level to yellow. This will take effect from April 26," he said.

A yellow Dorscon level means that the disease is spreading in Singapore but it is typically mild or being contained. It also poses minimal disruption to daily life.

The higher orange level means that a disease is severe and spreads easily from person to person, but has not spread widely in Singapore and is being contained.

Under the yellow Dorscon level, each individual must continue to comply with safe management measures and maintain good personal hygiene, Mr Gan said.

"I would like to encourage everyone to remain vigilant as the situation can change quickly."

He added that the Government will continue to monitor both the domestic and global situation closely to respond quickly to any new developments.

With the lowering of the Dorscon level, the following infection controls will also be relaxed from next Tuesday:

1. GROUP SIZES

There will no longer be a limit on group sizes. This means that people will not need to keep to a group of up to 10 persons for mask-off activities.

The cap on the number of unique visitors for each household, which is now at 10 people at any one time, will also be lifted.

There will be no need to maintain safe distancing between individuals or groups.

2. RETURNING TO WORKPLACES

All workers may return to the workplace from next Tuesday. This is an increase from the present limit of 75 per cent of those who can work from home.

Workers will also be allowed to remove their masks at their workplaces, so long as they are not interacting physically with others and are not in customer-facing areas.

"While this concession will provide some flexibility for workers as more return to the workplace, everyone is advised to exercise social responsibility and maintain an appropriate safe distance from others while unmasked," MOH said in its statement.

The ministry also encouraged employers to retain and promote flexible work arrangements even with the relaxation of the regulations.

In a joint statement on Friday, the Ministry of Manpower, National Trades Union Congress and the Singapore National Employers Federation strongly encouraged employers to continue offering flexible work arrangements to their workers and promote such arrangements as a permanent feature.

They called on employers to regularly engage their employees in deciding on the type of flexible work arrangement, such as flexible work timings or locations, that best suit their business and work-life needs.

The agencies also encouraged employers to allow their staff members to telecommute, even as more workers return to their workplaces.

For example, employers may ask personnel to return to office for meetings while permitting them to telecommute for tasks that do not require them to be present in the office.

They added that the Public Service will take the lead in establishing flexible work arrangements. 

"Eligible public officers in job roles that are conducive to hybrid work will be allowed to telecommute for an average of two days a week.

"The Public Service will also seek to develop new supervisory skills in terms of managing teams effectively in a hybrid work environment," the agencies said.

3. CAPACITY LIMITS FOR EVENTS

The capacity limit for events in larger settings will be lifted.

Previously, large events involving more than 1,000 people and that require people to put on their masks were subject to a capacity limit of 75 per cent.

MOH said that with these changes, most safe management measures — except the requirement for indoor masking — will not apply.

"However, this does not mean that they become moribund (not active)," it said, adding that the measures "continue to serve as the key levers to regulate social interactions, and the parameters can be adjusted if the situation requires it".

4. MASK-WEARING ON BUSES

At Friday's press conference, a question raised was on whether the Government will allow commuters to remove their masks while on public transport, especially on feeder buses where passengers usually do not spend much time.

To this, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung reiterated that the Government will not do so.

“Because if we say the bus ride is shorter and therefore you take out your mask, then what about other indoor settings where you are in for 10 minutes and get out?”

Mr Ong said that going into such details in the rules will confuse people and it is better to maintain the current regulations.

With these changes, we can now have a well-deserved breather after two difficult years of fighting the virus.
Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, co-chair of the national Covid-19 task force

Finance Minister Lawrence Wong described the lowering of the Dorscon level and easing of Covid-19 regulations as a "well-deserved breather" for the country.

He said that since the Covid-19 task force was set up more than two years ago, it has had to deal with various challenges such as panic buying, a circuit breaker or semi-lockdown, and various rounds of Covid-19 restrictions.

"Two years isn’t that long but it somehow feels like a lifetime ago because so much has happened and we have been through so much together.

"And working together, we have been able to keep everyone in Singapore safe to protect lives and livelihoods and to achieve one of the lowest Covid-19 fatality rates in the world," Mr Wong, who is also a co-chair of the task force, said during the press conference.

"With these changes, we can now have a well-deserved breather after two difficult years of fighting the virus," he added.

However, he pointed out that the pandemic is "certainly not over" and that restrictions may need to be tightened again if a new virus strain emerges.

Therefore, the Government's approach is to "step down" Covid-19 restrictions but not remove them entirely so that they can be activated again whenever needed.

“But for now, let’s all cherish the hard-earned relaxation and resume more normal lives,” he said.

Related topics

Covid-19 coronavirus MOH workplace safety Dorscon face mask events social gathering

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