Singapore will lift the "circuit breaker" imposed to control the spread of the coronavirus from June 1 gradually in three phases as the risk of an increase in infections through community transmission remains high in the country, the health ministry said on Tuesday.
The "circuit breaker" measures were first announced on April 7 and were further tightened after three weeks, with more workplaces closed and social gatherings banned.
While announcing the lifting of the COVID-19 restrictions, the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said in a joint statement that the country is likely to see a rise in new community cases.
As the risk of a resurgence in community transmission remains high, the government in the first phase will resume economic activities. Besides the essential businesses that are already operational, those that operate in settings with lower transmission risks will be allowed to open.
These include manufacturing firms, subject to the issued guidelines set for the manufacturing sectors and most offices. The authorities, however, said that telecommuting must be used to the maximum extent.
Those who have been working from home so far should continue to do so, and employees should go to the office only where demonstrably necessary, the Channel News Asia quoted the ministries as saying.
Such circumstances might include employees who need to return to the office to access specialised systems and equipment that cannot be accessed from home, or to fulfil legal requirements. Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, speaking at a COVID-19 multi-ministry task force press conference, said that the decision to exit the circuit breaker is because of the low number of cases in the community, and the stabilised situation at the dormitories.
As the nation resumes more activities, however, Singapore can expect to see a rise in daily new cases, he cautioned. The key is to detect these cases and contain them quickly, so as to prevent a sharp rise in the number of cases, or the emergence of a large cluster, he said.
As of Tuesday, Singapore reported 451 new COVID-19 cases, taking the nationwide tally to 28,794 infections since the disease emerged here in January 2020. A vast majority of the infection is among the foreign workers. The deadly virus has so far claimed 22 lives the country.