Singapore Authorities Urge Caution as Covid-19 Cases Rise in Community Areas amid Phase 2 of Reopening

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Singapore authorities on Friday said they are taking a cautious approach in the country's phase 2 of reopening in view of rising infections in community areas.

On Friday, the country reported 169 new coronavirus cases. Of the new cases, 158 are work permit holders residing in foreign worker dormitories, which have accounted for most of the COVID-19 cases in the country, the Ministry of Health said.

The remaining 11 cases were reported from the community areas -- three are Singaporeans (citizens) or Permanent Residents (foreigners) and eight are foreigners on work passes living outside the dormitories.

Overall, the number of new cases in the community has increased to an average of nine per day in the past week, from an average of four cases per day in the week before that, The Straits Times reported.

Restrictions, such as limiting gatherings to groups of five people or fewer, are likely to remain despite a number of activities resuming under phase 2 of reopening, it said.

With the addition of the new 169 cases, Singapore now has 44,479 COVID-19 cases and 26 deaths.

Singapore's "circuit-breaker" period began on April 7 as part of which all non-essential work places were closed and residents were barred from leaving their houses except to buy food and groceries or to exercise alone in the neighbourhood. The period ended on June 2.

In an online press conference on Thursday, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said phase two of reopening, which started two weeks back, will go on for a few months before the next phase of reopening begins.

"And what do 'months' mean? It's really hard to pinpoint at this stage, because we are just two weeks into phase 2. It's still early days," Wong said.

Although the multi-ministry task force tackling COVID-19 had said some rules could be relaxed soon in phase 2, Singapore is "not moving to any such relaxations any time soon".

"These sorts of things are unlikely to happen any time soon. That was the assessment earlier. It remains the same assessment today," Wong said.

Large-scale events like concerts and conferences will not be allowed and venues like bars and pubs will remain closed.

Number of infections are expected to increase as more activities resume, this will require aggressive testing, the multi-ministry task force has said.

If the number of cases rises sharply, some measures may be tightened.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, who co-chairs the task force, said the current numbers have "not fully reflected the effect of the opening" in this phase and cases may continue to go up in the coming weeks.

"We will continue to look at how we can confidently and safely continue our opening process and, eventually, we will reach phase 3," he said.

"So, we are still in the monitoring stage, and that time will come when we may announce additional relaxations, but I think it's too early for us to discuss that," The Straits Times quoted Yong as saying on Thursday.

The war against COVID-19 "is not yet over", he said, urging residents to stay vigilant.

"We want to move very carefully, very cautiously, and therefore very gradually. So please bear with us as we progressively open up bit by bit, step by step, to ensure safety for all," the minister said.

Attractions like Universal Studios Singapore have started to reopen with fixed guidelines. Other tourist attractions, like Jurong Bird Park, River Safari and Singapore Zoo, will reopen next week.