Concerned about a spike in new COVID-19 cases amid a gradual reopening of economic activities in Singapore, the Ministry of Health has urged the people to limit themselves to one social gathering a day, while social gatherings at workplaces will not be allowed from Wednesday. "In particular, employers will be required to put in place a maximum work-from-home requirement over a 14-day period, should one or more of their workers be found to have contracted COVID-19 and returned to their workplace," the Ministry of Health (MOH) said in a statement on Monday evening.
That means everyone in the company who can work from home will be required to do so, it said. Those who are working from home should minimise social gatherings and leave their homes only for "essential activities" during this 14-day period, the ministry stressed.
This comes after a recent rise in the number of COVID-19 community cases in Singapore, reported the Channel News Asia. Coronavirus infections doubled to more than 1,200 last week from around 600 cases the week before.
Singapore is facing increasing likelihood of 'exponential rise' in COVID-19 cases, and as such quick action are needed, according to local media reports.
"We strongly encourage all individuals, especially the vulnerable elderly or persons staying with elderly, to reduce their non-essential social activities for the next two weeks," the MOH said.
"We should continue to limit our social circle to a small group of regular contacts and limit ourselves to one social gathering a day, whether to another household or in a public place," it said.
The ministry noted that recent clusters in workplace settings have taken place because of "lax" safe management measures, especially in areas like staff canteens and pantries "where people tend to let their guard down and interact amongst themselves without their masks on".
"Hence, we will no longer allow social gatherings and interactions at workplaces from September 8," the MOH said.
The ministry clarified later on Monday night that it was referring to social gatherings as well as social interactions at workplaces. The ministry said it would take "tougher actions" if there are positive cases among workers.
Speaking to reporters, co-chair of the multi-ministry task force and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong on Monday asked the people to "cut back" on their social interactions and to "exercise some restraint and moderation".
People are still permitted to go out under the rules, said Wong. "But I think the more we circulate, the more we are out and about, there is always a chance that we, by circulating around so much, may inadvertently become the source of the next superspreader event," he added.
The MOH also reminded all individuals, regardless of their vaccination status, to self test regularly with antigen rapid tests (ARTs), especially if they are participating in higher-risk activities or attending large-scale events. These kits are now sold at most supermarkets and convenience stores.
The measures come after the detection of several large clusters at public bus interchanges, BHG Bugis Junction, a department store at a major mall in the central business district, and Changi General Hospital.
"Many of the cases and clusters arose because of higher levels of interactions between people, either in social settings or workplaces," the channel quoted the ministry as saying.
The MOH added that it will monitor the local situation "closely" for the next two weeks. "We seek everyone's cooperation in ramping up self-testing and in observing all safe management measures so that we can lower transmission risks together,” it said.
"Everyone can play their role by minimising their movement and social interactions so that we can reduce footfall at common spaces at or near the workplace and in public venues, especially when there are sharp increases in transmissions."
On Monday, Singapore reported 241 fresh cases of COVID-19, taking the infection count to 68,901. The country has so far seen 55 coronavirus-related deaths.