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I know what you’re thinking: Okay, another press conference, but they’re just going to tell us how well we’re doing, right, since almost 82% of us are fully vaccinated?

Well, you think wrong: we’re back to the bad old days when a press conference brings in more restrictions.

Here are 13 things you need to know about today’s press conference.

Singapore Expecting to See Daily COVID-19 Cases of 3,200 and Beyond Within the Next Two Weeks

According to MOH, if the infection continues at its current trajectory, we can expect to reach a daily count of 3,200 and beyond within the next 2 weeks. After that, there is a range of possibilities, but we cannot rule out cases doubling further.

To minimise the strain on our overall healthcare capacity, more tightened measures will be implemented before that happens, which will take effect from 27 September 2021 through 24 October 2021.

Because every phase has a name, MOH has aptly called this phase the Stabilisation Phase.

And of course, the very first restriction would be…

Social Gathering Back to 2 Per Group

Yes, the streets will be filled with dating couples again.

Permissible group sizes for social gatherings will be reduced from a maximum of 5 persons to a maximum of 2 persons. Correspondingly, the maximum number of unique visitors per household will be reduced to 2 per day. Individuals should continue to limit their overall number of social gatherings to not more than 1 per day, whether to another household, or meeting with friends and family members in a public place.

So this means…

Dine-In Back to 2 Per Group Only if Both Are Vaccinated

Groups of up to 2 persons will be allowed to dine-in at regular F&B establishments if both diners are fully vaccinated. This is a reduction from the current limit of 5 persons for dine-in. Unvaccinated individuals with a valid negative pre-event test (PET) result, recovered individuals, and children aged 12 years and below may also be included in such groups of 2

F&B establishments that are not able to ensure that all dine-in patrons meet the criteria for full vaccination may only operate take-away and delivery services.

Which now begs the question: how about hawker centres and coffee shops?

No Change for Hawker Centre and Coffee Shop Dine-in

Despite the tightened measures, people can still dine in hawker centres and coffee shops regardless of their vaccination status, but the limit will still be kept at 2 per group.

Home-Based Learning Extended Till 7 October 2021

It was earlier announced that Home-Based Learning (HBL) will be implemented for all Primary and Special Education (SPED) schools from 27 September through 6 October 2021. Primary 6 students will go on a study break prior to the Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) from 25 September through 29 September 2021.

However, the HBL period will now be extended till 7 October 2021, so that students can continue to stay home for the rest of the week.

Private Education Institutions (PEIs) must also implement HBL for all students aged 12 years and below from 27 September to 10 October 2021, although preschool services in PEIs may remain open.

During this period, in-person tuition and enrichment classes for students aged 12 years and below must pivot online or otherwise be suspended. Preschools, MOE kindergartens, KCare Services and Student Care Centres will remain open during this period but parents are encouraged to keep their children at home if they can.

Work From Home Will Now Be the Default for Employees Who Can Work from Home (Again)

Currently, up to 50% of employees who can work from home can go back to the workplace to work.

Work-from-home will be the default for employees who are able to work from home. During this period, the 10-day snap Work from Home regime will be suspended.

There should continue to be no cross-deployment of workers to multiple worksites for those who need to go into worksites to work. Social gatherings at the workplace will continue to be disallowed.

Employers should continue to implement flexible working hours and stagger the start times of employees who need to return to the workplace.

Employees, contractors, and vendors who are unable to work from home are strongly encouraged to self-test weekly via an Antigen Rapid Test (ART) to keep infected employees from coming to work and keep their workplace safe.

Those who are able to work from home but need to return to the workplace for ad-hoc reasons may do so after testing negative via ART before returning onsite.

No Change in Event Size

The event sizes and capacity limits for congregational and other worship services, cinemas, MICE, live performances, spectator sport events will remain at up to 1,000 attendees if all are fully vaccinated. Otherwise, only up to 50 attendees will be allowed without PET.

The concession for children aged 12 years and below, who cannot yet be vaccinated, will also apply for these events. Such unvaccinated children may be included in a group of up to two persons if the child is from the same household.

No Change in Marriage Solemnisations & Wedding Receptions

If you’ve waited until October to get married because you think Singapore’s going to treat COVID-19 as an endemic disease and therefore won’t have more restrictions, fret not: there won’t be any new restrictions for marriage solemnisations and wedding receptions.

Marriage solemnisations may continue, seated in groups of up to 2 persons, if all are fully vaccinated. Home solemnisations will continue to be allowed with up to 10 attendees. Otherwise, only up to 50 attendees will be allowed without PET.

Wedding receptions may be allowed to continue with up to 250 attendees if all are fully vaccinated, and with a group size of up to 5 persons per table. All wedding guests must strictly abide by the safe management measures, and in particular maintain social distancing and avoid mingling with others beyond their own table.

Financial Support for Affected Businesses

The Government will enhance the Jobs Support Scheme support to 25% for the period of 27 September 2021 through 24 October 2021 for sectors significantly affected by the tightened measures. These include F&B, retail, cinemas, museums, art galleries, historical sites, family entertainment, tourism, gyms and fitness studios, and performing arts and arts education.

The Government will provide a 2-week rental waiver for qualifying tenants on Government-owned commercial properties. Qualifying tenant-occupiers and owner-occupiers of privately-owned commercial properties will also be given a 2-week rental relief cash payout under the Rental Support Scheme (RSS).

Cooked food and market stallholders in centres managed by the National Environment Agency (NEA) or NEA-appointed operators will receive a 2-week rental waiver.

To support taxi and private hire car drivers, MOH will also extend the COVID-19 Driver Relief Fund payout at $10 and $5 per vehicle per day in October and November 2021 respectively.

The total sum of the support measures is $650m. This will be funded from the higher-than-expected revenues collected to-date. There will be no further draw on Past Reserves.

MOH Will Publish a Map With Areas Frequented Recently by COVID-19 Cases

Remember back in the bad old days when MOH will update us on the places visited by COVID-19 cases?

Well, it’ll be back from 1 October 2021.

From 1 October 2021, MOH will publish on their website a map of areas frequented recently by a larger number of confirmed COVID-19 cases.

People who have been to these hotspots during the same timeframe are encouraged to monitor their health, perform regular ART self-tests throughout the 10 days following their potential exposure, and minimise any unnecessary interaction with others.

SafeEntry and TraceTogether would continue to be used to inform individuals of recent confirmed close contacts to infected persons or recent exposure to an area of increased spread through Health Risk Alerts and Health Risk Warnings.

Testing Centres to be Open During the Weekends

From tomorrow (25 September 2021) onwards, MOH will open 8 Regional Screening Centres (RSCs) and 3 Quick Test Centres (QTCs) on Saturdays and Sundays, so that people with acute respiratory symptoms may get a free confirmatory PCR test.

This is because not all Swab and Send Home (SASH) clinics are open on weekends.

Such weekend visits to the RSCs and QTCs are by appointment only, to prevent overcrowding, with appointment booking only open from Friday, 6pm to Sunday, 3pm of each weekend for bookings on that weekend.

More details are at www.go.gov.sg/ari-weekend-testing.

More People to Take Booster Shots

As of now, people above 60 years old and residents of aged care facilities can take a booster COVID-19 vaccine shot.

From 4 October 2021, MOH will progressively invite persons aged 50 to 59 years who have completed their vaccination regimen with two doses at least six months ago to receive their booster dose of a PSAR mRNA vaccine.

An SMS with a personalised booking link will be sent to the mobile number that they had registered with for their first two doses, for them to book a new appointment on www.vaccine.gov.sg.

These individuals may receive their booster dose at any vaccination centre, polyclinic, or participating Public Health Preparedness Clinic (PHPC).

For people taking the Moderna vaccine, it will be at a lower dose of 50 mcg instead of 100 mcg as there are evidence to show that the lower dosage is sufficient.

Test, Test and Test

The authorities are also encouraging us to test regularly, especially people visiting crowded places such as wet markets and hawker centres or visiting elderly or children.

Those who are unable to work from home or who have to attend school are also encouraged to self-test.

Lest you’re not aware, taking an ART test isn’t as uncomfortable as taking a PCR test, so there’s really no reason for you not to test.

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Featured Image: YouTube (CNA)

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