After more than 2 years, Singapore finally will step down from Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) level from Orange to Yellow on 26 April. With this stepping down, comes a slew of easing of safe management measures that have governed (and protected) our lives during the pandemic.
Here are the things that businesses should know as Singapore eases its community safe management measures and steps down from DORSCON Orange.
#1 Back To 100% Work In Office
After 2 years of working from home, office workers should expect to be recalled to office (if they haven’t already been called to do so). From 26 April 2022, all workers may now return to work, an increase from the previous 75%.
While some employers may be thrilled to have their full staff strength back in office, employees may not be as pleased to give up the flexibility of working from home. Thus, we can expect that some form of flexible working arrangements to continue for many workplaces (and this is encouraged by the Tripartite – MOM, NTUC and SNEF).
For employers who have downsized their physical workplaces during the pandemic because of working from home, this may also be the time to reevaluate the need for physical office space.
#2 Masks Optional In The Office
For office workers dreading a return to office, there is one less thing to dread: mask-wearing. Offices or workplaces are an exception to the rule of mask-wearing in indoor settings. This will apply from 26 April 2022.
However, this exception only applies when there are no physical interactions with other people and when it is not in a customer-facing area. For example, an office worker working at his or her workstation (where no customers may enter) is allowed to take off their mask but a receptionist working in the reception area where customers may walk in must continue to wear his or her mask.
While this flexibility is extended for office workers, employers and employees should still be mindful of safe distancing and maintain social responsibility.
#3 Return Of Company Events
After 2 years of organising groups by 2 pax/5 pax/ 10 pax, the limits on group sizes will finally be removed on 26 April 2022.
Employees can finally socialise without checking the number of participants and cross department meetings can happen spontaneously without infringing on safe management measures. For employers who haven’t had a company teambonding event, this may be the time to finally welcome your new hires fully in person.
Events companies and catering businesses may finally see a revival in their businesses as people (both in social and business settings) return to in-person gatherings and meals. Perhaps, this year will be the return of company dinner and dance.
Companies may also see a return of in-person events with removal of safe-distancing and capacity limits.
From 26 April 2022, safe-distancing will no longer be required and larger settings/events with more than 1,000 pax and that are mask-on will no longer be subject to a capacity limit of 75%. Events will also no longer require Vaccination-Differentiated Safe Management Measures (VDS), except for those with more than 500 participants.
#4 Vaccination-Differentiated Safe Management Measures (VDS) Removed Except For Some Settings
From 26 April 2022, Vaccination-Differentiated Safe Management Measures (VDS) will be removed for all settings except events with more than 500 pax, nightlife establishments with dancing among patrons and F&B establishments.
For F&B establishments, while VDS is required, operators will not need to police their diners for their VDS status. Instead, the onus is on the diner to abide by the rules and random spot checks will be conducted. For F&B operators who are currently facing a manpower crunch, this is good news as their staff can be redeployed to food operations instead of managing VDS checks.
For other businesses, such as retail operators, malls, and gyms, the removal of VDS will mean an end of the additional resources taken up to monitor entries.
The use of SafeEntry and TraceTogether will also be stepped down from 26 April 2022. Most venues will not require the public to check in using TraceTogether. However, events with more than 500 pax and nightlife establishments with dancing among patrons where VDS is implement will still need to maintain SafeEntry and TraceTogether check-ins.
With this removal of VDS, we can expect that the manpower resources currently deployed to manage these measures will be released to handle other business operations. Safe distancing ambassadors who are currently deployed should start looking for alterative job prospects as it is likely that the role of SDAs (created during the pandemic) will likely fade as Singapore moves to endemic living.
#5 Resumption of Cross-Border Bus Services and Taxis with Malaysia
From 1 May 2022, cross-border bus services between Singapore and Johor Bahru will resume operations. This includes SBS Transit bus services 160, 170 and 170X, SMRT bus service 950 and Transtar Travel bus services TS1, TS3, TS6 and TS8.
Cross-border taxi operations will also resume from 1 May 2022. Travellers can either board a taxi at the Queen Street taxi terminal or book one through taxi companies with licensed cross-border taxi drivers.
For businesses with Malaysian workers, this is welcome news for their Malaysian employers who prefer more affordable and convenient ways to commute to Malaysia.
#6 Removal Of Entry Approvals For Non-Malaysian Work Permit Holders (WPHs)
In line with overall reopening of Singapore’s borders, fully vaccinated non-Malaysian Work Permit Holders holding an IPA in the Construction, Marine shipyard or Process sector (CMP) sectors no longer need to apply for entry approvals to enter Singapore from 1 May 2022. Instead, they will need to book a slot at the Onboard centre to undergo onboarding upon arrival.
This will likely ease the manpower crunch in these sectors as migrant workers in these sectors will be able to enter Singapore with less delays.
#7 Expansion of Community Visits for Migrant Workers
From 26 April 2022, the quota for community visits for migrant workers will be expanded. Up to 25,000 migrant workers will be able to visit the community on weekdays, and up to 50,000 on weekends and public holidays, for up to 8 hours per visit. This is an increase from the current quotas of 15,000 on weekdays, and 30,000 on weekends and public holidays.
In line with the lifting of VDS in most settings, unvaccinated migrant workers will also be allowed to participate in community visits. Unvaccinated migrant workers will not be required to apply for exit passes or take Pre-Visit Tests before going to Recreation Centres.
However, to manage overcrowding at popular locations, migrant workers will still need to apply for exit passes and indicate their selected locations in the community. MOM will monitor the application numbers and continue to conduct regular checks at potential congregation hotspots.
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