6 Must-Know Updates from Today’s COVID-19 Press Conference (16 Feb)

While most of us may have gotten used to the various updates given to us by the government at various junctures, a question that’ll never go away is: When are we going back to normalcy?

Well, although we might still need some more time before we can proceed with all our pre-pandemic activities, here’s some good news.

Based on today’s (16 February) press conference by the multi-ministry task force, some of the preexisting COVID-19 measures will be changed from 25 February onwards.

Rationale Behind New Rules

It was mentioned during the press conference that these new rules will be particularly focused on the five “most important and effective measures”: group sizes, mask-wearing, workplace requirements, safe distancing and capacity limits.

According to Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong, these new measures will allow Singaporeans to “a greater sense of personal responsibility, which will play an increasingly important part in our journey towards COVID resilience”.

Describing how the new measures now allow practices that “actually do not make a material difference”, Minister for Health Ong Ye Kung explained that there is no longer a need for the little, insignificant rules due to how far we have progressed with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For example, so long as people are wearing masks, there is no need to cross out alternate seats in park benches, or the urinals in a men’s toilet. Or when people wear their masks and they stand together and take a photo they don’t have to be a metre apart.

“I think all these little things don’t matter, really don’t matter anymore, we can do away with them. Our people know that we are in a crisis and we can start to remove these little daily reminders that are not really material anymore,” he added.

He also acknowledged the detrimental effects of the existing safe-management measures on Singaporeans’ mental and physical health, saying that they have “taken a toll” on individuals, particularly the youth in Singapore.

With the Omicron wave expected to peak over the next few weeks, it was also mentioned that further measures will be taken to relax the rules in the future after the number of cases begins to decrease.

Additionally, should a new variant emerge, the measures will be edited, rather than replaced by new ones so that they don’t become too confusing for everyone. Sounds good?

Spoiler alert: No, we’re still not going maskless yet. Sorry to disappoint. 

No More Safe Distancing Required When Masks Are On

Yes, so you can’t use this as an excuse anymore when you don’t want to stand next to your friend who has B.O.

From 25 February onwards, you won’t have to make awkward eye contact with the person queueing in front of you at Mr. Coconut when you realise you’re not standing one metre behind them anymore.

Although safe distancing is encouraged, it will no longer be necessary if everyone has their masks on.

(ie. Wear your masks, people. But if not, I guess you can still enjoy talking to your friends from a metre away.)

On the occasion where masks are not worn for whatever reason, the safe distancing measures of everyone being at least one metre apart will still be in place.

Five Visitors at Any Time

Even though the maximum number of people that can hang out in a group for social gatherings will still remain at five, there’s a small change to that when you’re having friends over.

Or maybe a not-so-small change if you’re a social butterfly who invites everyone and their mother over to your house every week.

Instead of the previous “five unique visitors per household each day” rule, we’ll now be able to have a maximum of five visitors at any point in time throughout the day, regardless of whether or not they’re the same five people.

Workplace Measures

Similar to the adjusted measures in the community, workplaces will be “aligned” to the same measures as mentioned by the Ministry of Health (MOH).

Workplaces will still cap the number of workers allowed to return to the office at 50%, but workers no longer need to follow the one-metre safe distancing rule when interacting with colleagues so long as everyone has their masks on.

Of course, the maximum number of people per gathering will still be capped at five.

So don’t go around the office building giggling with your group of eight office besties and get your boss into trouble, OK?

MOH also stated, “There will be no restrictions on cross-deployment of employees across workplaces, although employers may continue to do so for business continuity reasons.”

Change in Maximum Participants for Events

From 4 March onwards, there will no longer be any specific size limits for various events. These include religious services, wedding receptions, business events, media conferences, funerary memorial events and mask-on classes.

In place of that, MOH will be limiting the maximum number of people allowed at these events based on how large the venue for the event is.

Apart from that, zoning requirements will no longer be in place as well. According to MOH, this is due to how masks and vaccinations have become our “main (form of) protection”.

However, do note that these new rules don’t apply to all events: for events that will see a large number of people turn up, or if the event might be riskier in terms of COVID-19 infections, MOH will still implement restrictions on the number of participants who can attend these events.

These events include various attractions, cruises, sports stadium matches and large performing arts events.

As for places such as shopping malls and similarly-sized stores, they are allowed to take in around 50% of their pre-pandemic capacity when it comes to shoppers.

In the press release, MOH announced that the maximum limit of people participating in an event will be capped at 1,000 people for the time being.

Smaller events or settings with 1,000 people or fewer will be allowed to take place without any capacity limits.

On the other hand, larger ones that involve more than 1,000 people will face a capacity limit of 50%.

So yup, you’ll still have plenty of space to invite that jealous ex to your upcoming wedding.

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Increase in Number of Participants in Sports

For all the fitspos, rejoice.

With the new maximum number of participants from 25 February onwards being 30 when it comes to sports, you’ll be able to invite everyone you’ve wanted to play basketball with for ages now.

All participants will have to be vaccinated though, and this only applies to supervised or operated sports facilities.

Explaining MOH’s decision to increase the number of people allowed in sports, Mr Ong said, “The main driver of COVID-19 transmission is prolonged and close contact by eating together in an enclosed space. Sports on the other hand, while you’re playing, involves transient contact between players on the field or on the court.

“Hence, there’s been no compelling international evidence showing that sports participation causes more infections. You are more likely to catch the virus dining with friends than playing sports with them.”

Additionally, although safe management measures still need to be observed whenever the sport isn’t going on, such as during rest breaks, participants will not be required to conduct ARTs before participating. Testing in advance is still recommended though!

Unvaccinated Children Don’t Need to Be From the Same Family to Be In a Group

For the younger ones who’ve been missing out on some of the fun, they won’t have to for long.

For unvaccinated children who are 12 years old and below, they will not need to be from the same household “to be included in a group entering a place or participating in activities with vaccination-differentiated measures.”

This will mean that children will be able to go out with other extended family members or friends who don’t live in the same house as them. (Which should be a relief to most parents who just want a break after all this time.)

But remember, this is for children only hor. Don’t tell me that you’re 10 years old at heart OK.

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Featured Image: YouTube (CNA)