The Ministry of Health (MOH) announced that updated safe management measures will come into effect from 8 September 2021. This comes as several large clusters at bus interchanges, BHG Bugis Junction and Changi General Hospital has been uncovered in the past week.
Here are 6 things all businesses need to know.
#1 Your Employees May Be Issued Health Risk Warnings (HRW) And Health Risk Alerts (HRA)
Once a new cluster is identified, close contacts of COVID-19 cases will be quarantined. In addition to this, Health Risk Warnings (HRW) and Health Risk Alerts (HRA) will be issued to more people to cast a wider net around cases.
Individuals who receive HRW will be required by law to get a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test and self-isolate until they receive a negative result. They will also be required to do ART tests thereafter, and another PCR test on the 14th day.
Individuals who receive HRA are not subject to any actions required by law, but are “strongly encouraged” to go for a PCR test as soon as possible.
Also not required by law, the MOH update states individuals issued HRW and HRA should reduce their social interactions for 14 days.
#2 Fast and Easy Testing (FET) To Be Done Weekly (Instead Of Fortnightly) And Extended To More Sector
Prior to the announcement, the mandatory FET Rostered Routine Testing (RRT) was once every fortnightly. From 13 September onwards, this frequency will be increased to weekly testing.
Currently, FET RRT is required for workers in high-risk settings. This will be extended to more settings where workers have frequent community interactions:
- F&B (existing)
- Personal care services (existing)
- Gym and fitness studios (existing)
- Retail mall workers (new)
- Supermarket staff (new)
- Last-mile delivery personnel, such as parcel and food delivery personnel (new)
- Public and private transport workers, such as taxi drivers, private hire car drivers and all public transport frontline staff (new)
These FET will continue to be administered mainly through Employer Supervised Self-Swab. The MOH announcement stated that the government will subsidise the costs of all test under this enhanced surveillance regime until the end of 2021.
#3 All Companies To Initiate Weekly Testing For Onsite Staff (And Govt Will Provide 8 Test Kits Per Onsite Employee)
While not required by law, the MOH announcement also stated that “we expect all companies to initiate weekly testing for their onsite staff”. To facilitate this, 8 test kits per onsite employee will be given to employers for weekly testing over a two-month period.
#4 Social Gatherings And Interactions No Longer Allowed At Workplaces (From 8 Sep 2021)
The announcement highlighted that lax Safe Management Measures were observed in recent clusters in workplaces. On 8 September 2021, all social gatherings and social interactions at workplaces will no longer be allowed.
#5 If One Worker Has COVID-19, Entire Office Will Be Put On Maximum WFH For 14 Days
Due to the lax Safe Management Measures resulting in workplace clusters, the government will also “take tougher action if there are positive cases amongst workers who are infected”.
If one or more workers are found to have contracted COVID-19 and have returned to their workplace, employers will be put on “maximum” work-from-home requirement for 14-days.
#6 Those Working From Home Should Minimise Social Gatherings And Limit Going Out Of Their Homes For The Next 2 Weeks
The MOH announcement also encourages employees who are working from home to minimise social gatherings and leave their homes only for essential activities over the next 14 days. However, this is not a legal requirement.
Always Pros And Cons To Tighter Safe Management Measures (SMM)
These measures will likely curb the spread of COVID-19, and limit the burden on hospital capacity. On another positive note, the measures also do not translate to tightening the number of workers able to go into the workplace or restricting any businesses from operating.
However, it would also be naïve to assume that businesses will not be affected given that the government is effectively advocating that people do not go out if they don’t have to.
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