Picture: 123RF/BREIZHATAO
Picture: 123RF/BREIZHATAO

Singapore will temporarily close hundreds of nightlife venues and re-enforce stricter measures for dining-in just days after relaxing them, amid a surge in daily Covid-19 cases linked to a karaoke cluster, ministers said at a briefing on Friday.

The country will impose different restrictions on the local population based on their vaccination status, according to details released at a multi-ministry task force briefing on Friday, while warning that further restrictions may be necessary if daily cases continue to surge.

“This is a major setback in our journey to recovery and I understand many Singaporeans will be disappointed, and so are we. We must respond to this emerging cluster quickly, especially to protect those who have not yet been vaccinated completely,” said Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong.

The health ministry said in a statement on Friday that this setback will delay the nation’s reopening plans, though the vaccination progress puts it in a strong position to reopen once the situation is contained.

Individuals will only be allowed to dine-in at restaurants in groups of two from July 19 through to Aug. 8, though those who are fully vaccinated or recently recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed to continue to enjoy meals in a group of five.

Other measures include:

  • Temporarily closing for two weeks at least 400 night-time venues that pivoted during the pandemic to a food and beverage establishment
  • Restricting the number of “mask-off” people in indoor high-intensity activity classes
  • Hawker centres, coffee shops and food courts will be limited to groups of two regardless of vaccination status
  • Social events at workplaces will no longer be allowed, and any work-related events will not be allowed to serve any food

Singapore has seen a cluster of infections tied to karaoke lounges, which were closed at the start of the pandemic and later reopened as food and beverage outlets. The outbreak increased daily virus case numbers in the community to a 15-month high earlier this week. 53 new cases were reported today, 32 of which are linked to the lounges.

The tightening is a setback for the country’s plans to ease out of its Covid-Zero eradication stance towards a new normal that assumes Covid-19 will remain an endemic problem.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung told reporters as recently as Wednesday that the government didn’t plan to reverse its recent easing of social gathering restrictions, as it did after prior cluster outbreaks, saying then that the country was in a “much more resilient position than before” because of increased vaccinations.

Singapore has previously said that reopening would be tied to the city-state’s vaccination rates, which are rapidly rising, though not yet at the goal levels set out earlier that could trigger further easing. More first doses have been given in Singapore, per capita, than almost anywhere else in Asia.

“That plan was announced before we have this big cluster. So for the time being, we will have to monitor the situation,” said Ong. “We cannot just dogmatically implement it. In fact, we have to watch infection numbers.”

Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, co-chair of the country’s virus task force, added: “The consequence of every single action can be so consequential now. As we have seen, one single irresponsible behaviour can have devastating impact for the entire community.”

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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