Cover People wearing protective masks walk along Orchard Road shopping belt. (Photo: Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images)

Dining-in will be reduced back to groups of two while fully vaccinated individuals can continue to dine out in groups of five

This story was first published on June 25, 2021, and updated on July 17, 2021.

Covid-19 has been around for over a year and a half now and it is only normal for us to ask ourselves if this pandemic will ever end and what the future holds.

Related: Covid-19 May Eventually Become Endemic—Here’s What it Means

Unfortunately, it looks like Covid-19 remains a persistent global issue as it continues to mutate and spread. In fact, it was announced on July 16 that dining-in group sizes have been reduced to two from five for the unvaccinated due to the spike in community cases caused by the KTV lounge cluster

F&B establishments “have the flexibility to decide” if they would like to accommodate groups of five, depending on their own operating model and whether they would be able to check on the status of customers that are dining in, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) in a press release on July 16. 

A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after they have received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty or Moderna vaccines, MOH added. 

That said, Singapore has already started preparing for a situation whereby Covid-19 becomes endemic and when we all will have to live with Covid-19 as the new normal.

Singapore's Covid-19 multi-ministry task force has shared the outlines of what lies ahead in a post-pandemic world. Read on to find out more. 

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Social gatherings could return to semi-normal

If you are vaccinated, you may soon have gatherings in larger groups with fewer social distancing regulations. This may also apply to religious services, concerts, sporting events and weddings. Larger gatherings such as the National Day Parade or the New Year countdown may also be able to resume with more people vaccinated. 

On July 12, restrictions on the number of people allowed to dine out together were increased from two to five. Unfortunately, on that same day, it was also revealed that a new cluster had cropped up from KTV lounges and clubs. In less than a week, there are already 120 cases linked to this cluster which started with a Vietnamese hostess. 

To control this spread, on July 16, it was announced that dining-in at food and beverage establishments would be reduced to groups of two for those who are not fully vaccinated.

If you are fully vaccinated, meaning if you have received two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine and have waited two weeks for it to take effect, you can continue to dine-in in groups of five.

“This targeted approach will better protect those who are yet to be vaccinated while allowing those who have been fully vaccinated to continue with the current measures,” said Mr Gan, who is also Minister for Trade and Industry.

Unvaccinated people who can provide a negative pre-event Covid-19 test (PET) result, or, those who have recovered from Covid-19, can also dine out in groups of five. 

Children below the ages of 12 will also be allowed to dine with members of the same household without the need for pre-event testing as they are currently not eligible for the vaccine programme. 

“This whole group should not exceed five persons. If the children are not from the same household, then they should constitute not more than half the dine-in group,” said the Health Ministry. 

Rules for wedding receptions will remain unchanged with groups of five per table being allowed without the need for everyone to be fully vaccinated. 

“We acknowledge that wedding couples have faced significant uncertainties over the past few months. Hence, we will allow this key life event to continue at current numbers and PET provisions so that couples do not need to revise their wedding plans again,” said the Health Ministry. 

Related: Phase 3 Heightened Alert: Cap of 5 People in Groups From June 14, Dining-in May Resume From June 21

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Vaccinations will be sped up

The first step to reopening our country began with the start of Singapore's vaccination programme. During a press conference by the Covid-19 multi-ministry task force, it was announced that Singapore will be accelerating its vaccination programme because the Government has been able to bring forward the delivery of vaccine supplies.

From June 26, 80,000 vaccine doses will be administered to Singapore residents daily. This is a 70 per cent increase from the 47,000 doses that are currently being administered daily.

In fact, Singapore has set a new target to fully vaccinate two-thirds of the population by National Day though this depends on the arrival of vaccine supplies.

According to Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, Singapore has administered more than five million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine and over 53 per cent of the population has already received their first doses.

It was also announced that the priority window for Singaporeans aged 12 to 39 to register to book their vaccine appointments will be extended to July 1. Originally, this priority window was due to close two weeks from when it opened on June 11.

"Individuals who have already booked a slot for their first dose and have appointments in mid-to end-July are also encouraged to bring forward their appointments so that they can protect themselves and their loved ones sooner," said the Ministry of Health (MOH) in a press release. 

It added that should vaccine supplies continue to arrive, Singapore will bring forward the second dose of the vaccination. As of now, some eligible individuals have been able to bring forward their second dose by up to two weeks.

Currently, the official national interval between the vaccine doses is at six to eight weeks so that more people can get the protection they need from the first dose.

Related: Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech or Sinovac? You Can Now Choose Your Preferred Vaccine in Singapore

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Travel may resume

If you are fully vaccinated, you may be able to travel in the near future as more concessions may likely be made. These could include a shortened stay-home notice when vaccinated travellers enter Singapore, according to the co-chair of the task force, Lawrence Wong.

He added that the stay-home notice could be "waived entirely" and replaced with Covid-19 tests depending on which country one has visited and their risk profiles.

As time goes on, countries and territories that have the virus under control can begin to work towards mutual recognition of vaccine certifications as well as air travel bubbles

In fact, during an interview, Mr Ong sketched out the possibility that we may be able to see leisure travel resuming by the end of the year. He emphasised that possible destinations for Singapore residents would be countries with high vaccination rates and that have seen downward trends in their infection rates.

Singapore is currently in discussions with a number of countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and South Korea for these reciprocal travel arrangements which will further promote air travel once again. 

Mr Ong added that they would no longer refer to these reciprocal travel arrangements as air travel bubbles anymore. "We're going to call it the air travel corridor from now on. The word bubble is a bit of a jinx, I think," he said.

Mr Ong was referring to the Singapore-Hong Kong air travel bubble which was delayed for the second time following a spike in local community cases in May.

For now, the stay-home notice period has been reduced from 21 days to 14 days for high-risk countries. Individuals on stay-home notice will also soon be required to do an antigen rapid test on themselves on days three, seven, and 11 of their stay-home notice. 

Related: DIY Covid-19 Test Kits Singapore: Here’s What You Need To Know

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Mass contact tracing and quarantines may not be necessary

During the press conference, the ministers said that with vaccines, testing and social responsibility, there may no longer be a need to conduct massive contact tracing and quarantining of people each time an infection is discovered.

“With vaccination, testing, treatment and social responsibility, it may mean that in the near future, when someone gets Covid-19, our response can be very different from now,” the ministers said.

In fact, in the new normal, infected individuals may be able to recover at home simply because the symptoms of Covid-19 are typically mild once you have been vaccinated. 

People can also get themselves tested more regularly using the new DIY antigen rapid test (ART) kits that went on sale at pharmacies around the island. 

In fact, they will likely monitor Covid-19 in the same way that they monitor the flu. 

“In the meantime, we still need to take the necessary precautions and safeguards, to keep infections and hospitalisations at bay,” the ministers said.

Related: DIY Covid-19 Test Kits Singapore: Here’s What You Need To Know

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Mask requirements may not be removed anytime soon

Of course, many of us are certainly wondering when Singapore will allow us to stop wearing masks when we leave our homes. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like we can chuck our masks in the bin anytime soon. 

In fact, Mr Ong said that masks would be among the last of the measures that will be reviewed.

“Masks, to me, are a very important non-pharmaceutical intervention, and may well be one of the last things we want to consider removing,” Mr Ong said. He added that even if mask-wearing requirements were to be removed, it would probably be just for safer outdoor environments, such as parks.

Related: Covid-19: How to Work Out Properly While Wearing Face Masks in Singapore