City-state brings back strict curbs

Before the ban: People eating out at a restaurant before the ban on dine-in comes into force in Singapore. — AFP

The country has announced the strictest curbs on social gatherings and public activities since easing a Covid-19 lockdown last year, amid a rise in local infections and with new coronavirus clusters forming in recent weeks.

The new measures announced by the health ministry, which will be in force from tomorrow to mid-June, include limiting social gatherings to two people and ceasing dine-in at restaurants.

“This is clearly a setback in our fight against Covid-19, ” said Lawrence Wong, the minister for education who co-chairs Singapore’s coronavirus task force.

After a partial lockdown and a rigorous regime of testing and contact tracing, Covid-19 had almost disappeared in the city-state, with authorities reporting hardly any local transmission in recent months.

But over the last few weeks, cases have risen, with officials announcing several new clusters.

“A pattern of local unlinked community cases has emerged and is persisting, ” the Ministry of Health said in a statement yesterday.

“This is worrying as it suggests that there may be unknown cases in the community with possible ongoing community transmission and that our earlier and ongoing measures to break the chain of transmissions may be insufficient.”

Infections not linked to identified cases have risen to 15 in the last week, more than double the week before. The number of new cases has risen to 71 in the last week, from 48 the week before, as infections rise from a cluster tied to Changi Airport.

Starting tomorrow, group sizes in public or when visiting homes will be restricted to two people, down from the currently allowed five.

Dining in at restaurants will be banned, and all employees who can work from home must do so, officials said in a news conference.

The measures, which will be in place until June 13, resemble those imposed during a partial lockdown last year during which the economy suffered its worst ever recession.

The authorities said they will review the measures after two weeks to assess if adjustments are needed.

Singapore had already reduced group sizes and closed gyms last week in an attempt to stop the surge in infections.

On Thursday, authorities banned non-passengers from entering the airport terminal and closed an adjacent mall as around 9,000 workers undergo testing.

The country had to fight serious coronavirus outbreaks last year when the illness surged through crowded dormitories housing low-paid foreign workers, infecting tens of thousands.

But by global standards, its outbreak has been mild – officials in the city of 5.7 million have reported about 61,000 cases so far and 31 deaths. — Agencies

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