Stop spreading virus, Singapore tells public

Yuen Sin & Toh Ting Wei

THE STRAITS TIMES – Ahead of the long weekend, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and several ministers repeated calls for the public to stay home to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Some are still not doing so nor practising safe distancing. If this continues, more stringent measures, or an extension of the circuit breaker month, might be needed, they said.

DON’T GATHER IN PUBLIC

The authorities on Thursday made clear the penalties people will face if they breach safe distancing measures.

Enforcement officers will immediately take down their particulars. This is what they will face:

• First offence: Stern written warning.

• Second offence: SGD300 fine.

• Third offence: Prosecution in court.

In egregious cases, there may be prosecution even if it is a first offence.

The police may also be contacted for follow-up action.

Under the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act, first-time offenders face a fine of up to SGD10,000, imprisonment of up to six months, or both. Second-time offenders can be fined up to SGD20,000, jailed for up to 12 months, or both.

NO MORE GOING TO STADIUMS

Yesterday, Sport Singapore closed until further notice.

At a press conference on Thursday, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said the facilities were initially allowed to remain open for people to exercise without being close together.

“Unfortunately, we do see groups, people coming in groups, to exercise in the stadiums, which is not what the intention was,” he said.

He added that people who want to exercise can continue to do so, but they must do it alone or with just a family member living in the same household.

“Do not exercise in groups, do not jog in groups, do not cycle in groups… any such activities would be an offence,” he stressed.

CONTROLLING ACCESS TO PARKS

Unlike stadiums, parks cannot be closed.

“But what we can do is… control access where it’s feasible,” said Wong. When numbers build up in some parks, people may be stopped from entering the park altogether.

Residents should not go to a place far away from their home to exercise. They should stick to their own local neighbourhood.

While travelling outside the neigh-bourhood to exercise has not been prohibited yet, the task force will review its stance on this and may well have to tighten guidelines, Wong said.

He noted that some countries allow people to exercise within their local neighbourhood.

Separately, more than 720 playgrounds and fitness areas and eight fishing spots across gardens, parks and nature reserves managed by the National Parks Board have been closed, the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources said on Thursday.

WET MARKETS – MORE CONTROLS MAY BE NEEDED

More drastic measures may be needed if crowding continues at wet markets, said Wong. Many Singaporeans are used to going to the markets on weekends, particularly in the morning, leading to the build-up of queues, as the authorities step in to control entry and exit to wet markets.

Such crowd management measures will be put in place at 40 popular markets by today. They include Tiong Bahru Market and Bukit Timah Market.

However, if Singaporeans can change their habits and go to the market on weekdays when it is less crowded, additional measures may not be needed, Wong added.

PROTECT THE SENIORS

To protect the elderly who are especially vulnerable, parents will no longer be allowed to drop their children off daily at the grandparents’ place, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong on Thursday.

“If there are care arrangements for the grandparents to look after your children, then you should leave the children with their grandparents throughout the entire circuit breaker period,” he said.

“This is to protect the seniors to minimise the risk of exposure to virus attacks.”

Parents who work in essential services can get help to place their children in childcare facilities.

Gan said that while people can still visit their elderly parents who live alone to help them with their daily needs, interaction with the elderly should be reduced as far as possible, and strict personal hygiene observed.

WEAR A MASK

On April 3, the government advised Singaporeans to wear a mask if they are out and cannot avoid close contact with others.

This came about after new evidence showed that some people can be infected but not show any symptoms.

Asked about this on Thursday, Wong said the authorities will want to make wearing a mask mandatory under certain circumstances, although such decisions have to be guided by evidence or scientific advice.

He said that all food handlers will soon have to wear a mask.

“We are giving some time for the food handlers to adjust (to the requirement), but very soon, all of them will be required to wear a mask.”

The government is also looking at making wearing a mask mandatory for those making food deliveries.

HELP YOUR LOVED ONES UNDERSTAND NEED TO STAY HOME

“We are on the third day of our circuit breaker, but still far too many public gatherings are happening. The number of new Covid-19 cases is increasing sharply, and we must comply with the Stay Home measures very strictly.

“From today, any group gathering in public will immediately be issued a written warning by enforcement officers. If your loved ones do not understand how serious this is, please try hard to help them understand.

“The more we take liberties with the Stay Home measures, the longer these painful measures will have to last. I know we all want to go back to normalcy, but this can only happen if we take things seriously,” said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, on Facebook.

EVERYONE MUST DO HIS OR HER PART

“We need everyone’s cooperation for these circuit breaker measures to be effective. There are still many people who are not taking the Covid-19 situation seriously. Some are even uncooperative, insisting on dining in at eating places, not maintaining a safe distance when queueing in markets, and gathering in parks to eat or exercise together.

“I urge everyone to make the right choice. #StayhomeforSG, and STAY 1-METRE APART. Remind your family members, especially the elderly, to stay at home. They are the most vulnerable, and we need to protect them. Remind also the young, who are out of school during this period, to meet their friends online, and not gather in person. Young or old – none of us are immune. We can stop Covid-19 together. Let’s make these remaining 25 days count!”, said Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli, on Facebook.

MINIMISE MOVEMENT TO AVOID ANOTHER LARGE CLUSTER

“Let’s be quite clear, once again, about what this circuit breaker means.

“It really requires all of us to minimise movement and stay at home as much as possible, so that we do not become the weakest link that causes another large cluster to emerge. We are already having to deal with foreign worker dormitory clusters. Let’s not have more clusters emerge outside of that, in our own community as well. And to do that, all of us really need to do our part… so that the circuit breaker will truly be effective, and all the efforts and sacrifices that Singaporeans are making over this coming month will eventually pay off,” said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, Co-Chair of the COVID-19 Task Force, at a media conference.

HEALTH OF ALL DEPENDS ON EACH INDIVIDUAL

“I appeal to everyone: During this long weekend, stay at home.

“If you want to connect with your friends, your relatives – call them, or have a virtual meet-up with them over the Internet, or video calls.

“Each of us must take these circuit breaker measures seriously. Because this is the only effective way for us to slow the transmission of the virus so that we can gradually stabilise the situation and reduce the number of cases daily.

“The health of all depends on each of us. If every one of us plays our part, we will collectively be able to overcome this infection,” said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, Co-Chair of the COVID-19 Task Force, at a media conference.