Singapore opens gyms, dining out as China outbreak steadies

SINGAPORE (AP) — Singaporeans can dine at restaurants, work out at the gym and socialise with no more than five people at a time as of yesterday, when the city-state removed most of its pandemic lockdown restrictions.

The latest relaxation comes as reopenings in many places around the world are touching off fresh spikes in infections, raising questions about how to live with the coronavirus without causing unnecessary deaths or economic catastrophe.

Getting back to business in Singapore came as China declared a fresh outbreak in Beijing under control after confirming 25 new cases among some 360,000 people tested. That was up by just four from a day earlier.

A Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention official said the number of cases was expected to fall soon in outbreak centred on Beijing’s main wholesale market. So far Beijing has confirmed 183 new cases over the past week.

Singapore’s malls, gyms, massage parlours, parks and other public facilities reopened their doors with strict social distancing and other precautions.

A man lifts weights at a fitness centre in Singapore. PHOTO: AP

“It was a long awaited experience, I would say. It’s been quite a few months long,” said Thomas Tan, 34-year-old customer service officer eating in an outdoor market. “It’s good to be able to eat outside with friends but there still must be social distancing.”

After at first appearing to have been a model for containing the virus, the country of only 5.8 million has one of the highest infection rates in Asia with 41,473 cases, mostly linked to foreign workers’ dorms.

Authorities said such cases have declined, with no new large clusters and a stable number of other cases despite a partial economic reopening two weeks ago.

Wee Cheng Yan, a gym trainer, said it felt good to return to work after two months at home.

“Definitely, interaction has been lacking the past few months,” he said. “Watching a lot of TV. Doing a bit of resistance band training, which is not as effective as working out in the gym.”

Members of the gym still must make appointments and are limited to only two hours a day. The steam rooms remained shut and clients must wear masks at most times.

Contact sports, concerts, trade fairs, singing lessons and mass religious meetings are still banned and entertainment venues such as cinemas, karaokes and bars remain shut.

The 25 new cases reported yesterday in Beijing were among 32 nationwide in China, four of them in Chinese who had returned from overseas.

Such outbreaks are inevitable, Wu Zunyou of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention told a news conference.

But he stressed that prevention measures should not slacken.

Beijing suspended classes and put opening-up plans for everything from sports events to art exhibitions on hold.

Bus travel to other regions was suspended to prevent the spread of the outbreak.

The outbreak started in the seafood section of the city’s Xinfadi market, raising worries infections might have come from imported fish or sea products.

But a customs administration notice said nationwide testing for the coronavirus in food imports were all negative.