Singapore will reinstate some social distancing controls and tighten borders with countries that are seeing a persistent rise in coronavirus cases to stem a virus spread in the city.
The government will allow fewer people at malls and large stores, and close campsites for two weeks from May 1, according to a statement from the health ministry on Friday. It will reduce the operating capacity of attractions to 50% from 65% for a week from May 7, and urged people to limit social gatherings to two per day and stay home where possible, it said.
Visitors and long-term pass holders from Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka will be barred from entering or transiting through Singapore from May 2. In addition, all travelers from these countries will have their quarantine extended to 21 days. People arriving from Thailand will have to complete quarantine in a dedicated facility for 14 days, it said.
“We will continue to review the current suite of measures and will take further steps to tighten and significantly reduce the level of interactions in the community should transmission persist,” the statement said.
The move comes as Singapore experiences a higher than usual number of new Covid-19 infections, reporting the most in more than nine months on Thursday. The cases stem from one cluster in one of the country’s biggest hospitals and another from an immigration officer in Changi Airport. On Saturday, the nation reported nine new cases in the local community.
Both Singapore General Hospital and Sengkang General Hospital have reported a high number of patients in their emergency wards on separate Facebook posts since Friday, with Sengkang General Hospital adding that wards are also running at full capacity.
Public Places Closed for Cleaning; Work-from-Home
Authorities will also close all public places visited by the cases during their likely infectious period for two days for cleaning, and to facilitate testing of staff there. These places include supermarkets, food centers, mosques and a church.
For office workers, the government is asking employers to allow them to work from home if they are able to, and avoid social gatherings. This directive comes about a month after authorities relaxed workplace rules to allow more people back to offices.
“We know these new restrictions will create inconvenience for everyone,” Lawrence Wong, the minister who co-chairs the virus taskforce, said at a briefing on Friday. “This is the only way we can ensure we slow down the spread of the virus in the community.”
Singapore will need to tighten measures against Covid-19 where necessary promptly to avoid going into a second circuit breaker, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at a May Day Rally on Saturday, according to The Straits Times.
After months of near-zero new locally-transmitted virus cases, the island nation had been moving toward easing restrictions put in place last year, including moving ahead to revive an air travel bubble with Hong Kong. A combination of virus containment and rolling out vaccines at one of the fastest rates in Asia saw Singapore top Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking this month, dethroning New Zealand for the first time.