Singaporeans excitedly entered Phase 2 of our reopening on 19 Jun, and some 6 months later, the novelty may have worn off somewhat.
As we pack the malls in the days before Christmas, many may be awaiting the announcement of Phase 3 and hoping we can gather in bigger groups during the festive season.
Well, our dreams have come true, as PM Lee has said that Singapore will enter Phase 3 on 28 Dec, and groups of up to 8 people will be able to gather.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made the long-anticipated announcement during a speech broadcast on his Facebook page on Monday (14 Dec).
He said though we won’t forget the ‘Circuit Breaker’ period and the tremendous effort made then, life for us is better now, with zero community cases on most days.
His speech was followed by a press conference held by the Multi-Ministry Taskforce handling the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) also detailed some of the new and amended measures in a press release.
Thanks to the efforts of Singaporeans, many safe distancing measures will be eased in Phase 3.
For example, capacity limits in public places like malls, attractions, and places of worship will be relaxed from 10 sq metres per person to 8 sq metres per person.
Attractions can apply to the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) to increase their operating capacity from 50% to up to 65%.
Groups of up to 8 people will be allowed to gather in public, an increase of 3 from the current rule of 5.
The number of people allowed to visit residences will also be increased to 8.
All religious organisations will be able to increase their capacity for services to up to 250 people.
This will facilitate festive family get-togethers, Mr Lee said.
Now that we’re going into Phase 3, we may not seeing a further relaxation of the rules for some time after that.
PM Lee said that Phase 3 may last for possibly for 1 year or more — even longer than the 6 months of Phase 2.
A key factor in how Phase 3 will last will be how soon Covid-19 vaccines will become available to Singapore, he added.
Even after Phase 3 starts, further resumption of activities may be considered if our situation remains stable.
However, PM Lee, said the battle against Covid-19 isn’t won yet, even as we enter Phase 3.
As the pandemic is still raging globally, with many countries seeing 2nd, 3rd or 4th waves, the virus isn’t gone.
Thus, we still have to keep our guard up instead of relaxing.
We can reconnect with friends and family, but it’s definitely not time to hold a big party, he added.
Previously, the Government set a goal that the uptake of the TraceTogether app or token must hit 70% of the population, before we can enter Phase 3.
That’s why some experts had said earlier this month that Singapore might not enter Phase 3 in Dec due to the then uptake of 50.8%, which wasn’t high enough.
Just earlier on Monday (14 Dec), Channel NewsAsia (CNA) reported that our uptake had hit more than 60%.
However, the taskforce seems to be confident that we’ll reach the 70% benchmark by the end of the year.
Education Minister Lawrence Wong, who is co-chairing the task force, said we’re going into Phase 3 partly because of that.
TraceTogether-only SafeEntry will be introduced only when everybody has had an opportunity to get the app or token.
On Monday (14 Dec), just hours before Mr Lee’s speech, the Ministry of Health (MOH) reported 5 new cases of Covid-19.
But they were all imported cases who were served a Stay-Home Notice (SHN) upon arrival in Singapore.
No cases were reported in the community or workers’ dormitories, meaning Singapore hasn’t had any community infections for 9 days straight.
Our case total is up to 58,325 now, with 29 deaths.
As we approach the end of a tumultuous year, the declaration of Phase 3 is the best Christmas present ever.
It’s encouraging to know that the effort we put in during the ‘Circuit Breaker’ hasn’t been wasted.
However, no matter what phase we’re in, we shouldn’t become complacent.
So let’s follow the prevailing safe distancing measures so we can have a safe festive season and look forward to a better New Year.
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Featured image adapted from MS News.
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