Thursday, 2 Jul 2020

Streets and schools come alive again as Singapore reopens

The streets got a little busier yes-terday and public transport hummed into full gear despite moderate commuter numbers as Singapore emerged from its circuit breaker period to resume some activities that had been shut down due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Most shops remained shuttered, but some masked workers marched back to offices, and some factories were buzzing again.

Around 75 per cent of the economy is expected to resume operations in phase one, with about one-third of workers returning to work on-site, up from 17 per cent during the circuit breaker.

If infection rates remain low and stable, Singapore could be allowed to ease into phase two of its reopening by the end of this month, where almost the entire economy will resume operations, the multi-ministerial task force set up to combat the outbreak has said.

Yesterday, there were four cases reported in the community out of 544 new Covid-19 cases, with foreign workers in dormitories accounting for the majority of infections.

Still, Singaporeans returned to schools and workplaces cautiously, as will be the norm for some time to come.

They must get used to a new normal of living with restrictions, stressed National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the task force.

“Reopening means there will be an increase in activities and human contact, and more opportunities for the virus to spread. That is why we decided to implement a phased approach and not open the floodgates all at once,” he said in a Money FM 89.3 radio interview.

A small traffic jam formed on Bishan Road at about 7am as parents drove their children to school.

Many students had remained home for close to two months, and precautions were in place when a limited number were allowed back.

While Primary 6 pupil Japhanie Tan, 12, was delighted to meet her friends, she will have to get used to wearing her face mask throughout the day and talking through it, as well as walking in single file at least a metre away from her friends.

Some returned to offices for the first time in a while, if working from home was not an option.

One of them, Ms Chin Ching, director of professional services firm SLM Consulting, was back in the office for a few hours.

She had not been able to retrieve the hard copies of some documents such as clients’ financial statements during the circuit breaker, as not all of the records are electronically documented.

“Working back in the office was definitely more efficient than from home as (we had) access to all the legal documents,” she said.

Others headed out to cover their grey roots, as hairdressers and barbers can now offer all services. In addition, motor vehicle and air-conditioner servicing is now allowed.

Seniors, the group most vulnerable to the virus, should still stay at home where possible, but their children and grandchildren can visit, within limits.

Teacher Yeo Chengrong, 38, dropped off his two sons, aged two and five, at their grandparents’ place for the first time in two months. The family had missed these meetings.

“Sometimes, it really takes losing something for you to truly treasure it,” he said.

  • Additional reporting by Cheow Sue-Ann and Choo Yun Ting

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