In his Ministerial update, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that the long-awaited Phase 3 will begin on 28 December 2020.
After almost a year of uncertainty battling the COVID-19-led health and economic crisis, the light is at the end of the tunnel. While vaccination is not the silver bullet to end the crisis, Phase 3 was announced on the back of several positive outcomes. Namely, Singapore has been reporting 0 community cases on most days, establishing testing capacities and procedures and having contact tracing capabilities of up to 70% of the resident population.
With that in mind, here are 5 things businesses should know.
#1 Phase 3 Allows Groups Of Up To 8
The first and probably the headline-grabbing news is that we are transitioning into Phase 3 on 28 December 2020. Limits on social gatherings will increase to 8 people, from 5 people previously.
What we need to note is that this is on the Monday after the Christmas weekend, likely in an effort to avoid letting our guards down prematurely during festive celebrations.
For business such as F&B outlets, table sizes will be expanded – allowing bigger groups of friends and families to get together. Other businesses in the events space, sporting spaces and others will also benefit from this increase in group sizes.
#2 Capacity Limits For Larger Spaces & Events To Be Relaxed
Larger events, such as weddings, religious organisations and live performance can welcome up to 250 people in up to 5 groups of 50.
Attractions can now increase capacity to 65%, from 50% previously. This is in time for people in Singapore to enjoy their SingapoRediscovers vouchers.
Shopping malls will also be able to welcome more visitors, allowing for 8 sqm per person from 10 sqm per person previously.
Further relaxation of measures in Phase 3 can be expected.
#3 Vaccination For All Singaporeans And Long-Term Residents
The Health Science Authority (HSA) has approved the Pfizer-BionTech vaccination. $1 billion has been set aside to build sufficient vaccination for the entire resident population and long-term residents in Singapore by end-2021. This will be free of charge.
In Singapore’s efforts to build up this stockpile, we worked with numerous vaccine manufacturers for advanced purchase orders. Singapore has also provided resources for pharmaceutical companies to test their vaccines as well as to establish manufacturing capacities in Singapore.
However, for more normal live to return, having Singapore’s population vaccinated is not sufficient. Globally, the population needs to be vaccinated so travel restrictions will be lifted.
The first groups of the population to be vaccinated will be healthcare workers and frontline workers. Seniors are also at greater risk and will be a priority for getting vaccinations. PM Lee shared that Cabinet Ministers will also be vaccinated to provide greater confidence for all to get vaccinated.
This will likely start in the next 2 to 3 weeks.
Likewise, if international travellers are vaccinated, a quicker re-opening of borders may be implemented.
#4 Borders To Re-Open Gradually
PM Lee said that Singapore’s connectedness is our lifeblood and that re-opening the borders, in a controlled and safe manner, is the only option.
In Phase 3, Singapore will allow more travellers to enter and transit safely. While majority of Singapore’s cases are imported cases, managing the community spread rather than shutting the borders is the way forward.
This can help the hardest hit sectors currently – aviation, tourism and hospitality and retail.
PM Lee also alluded to the fact that Singapore has painstakingly built its connectedness as well as an infrastructure as a transshipment hub. This can now be put into use to support economic activities for vaccine shipments – with the Pfizer-BionTech vaccine requiring to be stored at -70 degrees Celsius.
This can bolster Singapore’s reputation as a strong air, land and sea logistics hub, to act as a global supply chain for vaccinations and more.
Another area of travel that Singapore needs to bring back MICE. One positive outcome is that the World Economic Forum (WEF) has chosen to hold its annual meeting in Singapore instead of its traditional home – Davos, in Switzerland.
#5 Singapore (And Every Other Country) Will Not Return To The Same Pre-COVID World
While the light is at the end of the tunnel, Singapore cannot take for granted that it will return to normal or enjoy economic progress going forward.
Providing continuity and confidence for businesses is very important, and Singapore needs to continue working hard to build a business-friendly climate.
Having a vaccinated population and open travel links will make Singapore a safe and open travel destination when the opportunity arises.
The sectors have enjoyed growth will not suddenly revert back to pre-COVID-19 levels. E-Commerce, infocomm and media industry, and several others will continue to ride on the accelerated trends brought about by COVID-19. Other industries that have enjoyed growth includes advanced manufacturing and financial services.
Similarly, the sectors that suffered the most will not suddenly see a spike in demand. Tourism and aviation will gradually build up in Phase 3 and beyond. It will not be an instantaneous upturn.
Another critical sector spotlighted by COVID-19 is the need for local food safety.
This Will Increase The Risk Of Infection, So We Must Be Cautious
Phase 3 will no doubt increase the risk of infection. This is why people, businesses and the government has to continue being vigilant to the threat COVID-19 still poses.
Globally, new waves are hitting major cities and this is not a time to let our guards down.
Similarly, we can expect the authorities to be even more vigilant in monitoring the situation and ensuring people and businesses comply with the new measures.
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