Singapore to ease coronavirus curbs in next few weeks

Bangkok Desk, May 2 (efe-epa).- Singapore on Saturday said it would begin easing some of the curbs imposed to contain the coronavirus outbreak over the coming few weeks, as the city-state prepares to gradually reopen economic activities.

“The multi-ministry taskforce will ease some of the tighter circuit breaker measures, which were announced on 21 April, progressively over the coming weeks,” a health ministry statement said.

“At the same time, we are preparing for the safe and gradual resumption of economic and community activities after the end of the circuit breaker period on 1 June 2020.”

The statement said the authorities would allow some selected activities from May 12.

These include home-based businesses of making and selling food items, including cakes and confectionery, ice cream, cocoa, chocolate and chocolate products, and other snacks.

Retail outlets of food, including cakes and confectionery, packaged snacks, and desserts, may be open for takeaway and delivery only.

Laundry services and barbers would also be allowed to open from May 12 while some education institutes would be allowed to open and conduct classes in small groups from May 19.

“We recognize the anxiety amongst students and parents of graduating cohorts, who have to take the national examinations this year. From 19 May 2020, schools will bring back students from graduating cohorts in small groups for face-to-face consultations and lessons,” the statement said.

Singapore is suffering from one of the worst economic crises in history.

Its gross domestic product contracted 2.2 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, its biggest contraction in a decade, while the 2020 forecast range was downgraded to minus 4 percent to minus 1 percent.

The city-state has become the country with the highest number of confirmed cases in Southeast Asia with more than 17,500 cases, although the number of deaths has been relatively low at 16.

Most of the cases are from cramped migrant workers’ dormitories. On Friday, the country reported 932 new coronavirus cases.

“The average daily number of new cases in the community has dropped by more than half, from 25 in the week before, to 12 in the past week,” said the statement.

“That said, we are not out of the woods. There are still unlinked cases in the community and new clusters may form if we let our guard down. We must be cautious in how we lift the restrictions and put in place further safeguards even as we do so.”

The authorities said they would be “tapping on digital solutions” and as such SafeEntry, a digital check-in system to record visitors and employees would be deployed “more pervasively when we resume these activities”.

“At the same time, we are preparing for the safe and gradual resumption of economic and community activities after the end of the circuit breaker period on June 1, 2020,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, in China, the daily number of new Covid-19 cases dropped to one on Friday, in a first since the novel coronavirus erupted in the country in December last year before the deadly disease took the world by storm.

China’s National Health Commission said the authorities registered the new case on Friday and the patient was a traveler from abroad. There have been no additional deaths.

The authorities had recorded 12 new infections on Thursday, six imported and another six locals, compared to four detected on Wednesday and 22 on Tuesday.

The cumulative number of cases in China stood at 82,875 and the death toll at 4,633, according to the health commission.

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