If you’ve been excitedly looking forward to the relaxation of COVID-19 safe management measures (SMM), you’ve probably also noticed that workers will no longer need to wear masks in the office if they are not interacting with other coworkers or customers from 26 April.
To know more about the easing of the measures, watch this to the end:
And you might wonder… Why?
I mean, not like masks have been made optional for indoor settings, right?
With regard to that, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong addressed this issue just yesterday (22 April).
And here’s why masks will not be compulsory for office workers under specific circumstances.
“Difficult” to Wear Masks All the Time at the Workplace
Yup, that’s the reason.
However, Mr Wong, the co-chairman of the ministerial task force on COVID-19 (and as everyone knows, Singapore’s next PM), highlighted that workers need to continue exercising mindfulness and personal responsibility.
“It would be very hard to be back at work throughout the day and then wearing a mask and working. And therefore, this flexibility is extended for such an occasion, but we would continue to encourage everyone to exercise responsibility,” he explained during a press conference by the task force on 22 April.
“And if you take off your mask when you’re working, ensure that you’re maintaining a safe distance from your colleagues and, obviously, do not gather together in a crowded setting,” he added.
Mr Wong also emphasised that workers can only remove their masks in the workplace under two circumstances.
Of course, the first situation is if employees are not communicating with each other in a face-to-face manner.
The other situation is if employees are not situated in any “customer-facing areas”, as those who are will likely have to interact with customers throughout the workday.
“So if you’re just back to the office in your workstation working, then we will allow you to take off your mask,” Mr Wong mentioned.
New COVID-19 Regulations and Situation Regarding COVID-19 Cases
With the Ministry of Health (MOH) rolling out a series of relaxed COVID-19 SMM measures from next Tuesday (26 April) onwards, there’s no doubt that Singaporeans are eager to welcome back a sense of normalcy into their daily lives.
Apart from the mask rule for employees, there will be no limit to the number of workers who can return to their workplace, an increase from the 75% limit previously.
Of course, a big reason why measures have been relaxed further is due to how the COVID-19 cases have not risen significantly since the last time restrictions were eased on 29 March this year.
In case you don’t remember already, on 29 March, the maximum group size for social gatherings increased to ten people, masks outdoors became optional and the capacity limits for events increased as well.
The task force was also asked during the press conference yesterday (22 April) why Singapore did not see a large rise in COVID-19 cases after the previous relaxation of COVID-19 SMMs.
To that, Minister of Health Ong Ye Kung cited three reasons.
The first factor he brought up is Singapore’s vaccination rate, which is “one of the highest in the world” according to Mr Ong.
Based on the Ministry of Health’s reports yesterday (22 April), around 96% of Singapore’s eligible population is vaccinated.
Secondly, there has been “quite a number” of people who have been infected with COVID-19 in Singapore, increasing the country’s collective resilience towards the virus as a whole.
Lastly, Singapore society has also worked together to obey the rules, SMMs and other rules that have been implemented.
“So all these help. But it’s a combination of factors. It’s very hard to isolate which are the main factors,” Mr Ong concluded.
Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong, who is also a co-chairman of the task force, also emphasised how Singaporeans’ cooperation, support, as well as confidence in the system is essential when we face COVID-19 as a nation.
However, we should still be vigilant about the COVID-19 situation, especially since the COVID-19 situation is still severe in other countries. On top of that variants can appear in our society as well.
“We must continue to remain vigilant even as we continue to ease up our measures. And in the weeks to come, we can expect that the number of cases may increase because of a greater easing this time round and, therefore, we also have to remain vigilant and continue to monitor the situation and be prepared to adjust our measures from time to time,” Mr Gan stated.
Mr Wong also acknowledged every Singaporean’s efforts in allowing the country to recover from COVID-19 so steadily. He also offered his gratitude to healthcare and frontline workers as well while thanking everyone for contributing their own efforts.
“We can now have a well-deserved breather after two very difficult years of fighting the virus. But let’s always remember, we are getting closer to the finish line but the race is not over.
“The pandemic is certainly not over. A new variant will emerge sooner or later… No one can predict what this next variant will be. And if need be, we may very well have to tighten our restrictions.”
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