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Restrictions on the sale and consumption of alcohol after 10.30 pm at bars and restaurants will also be lifted

The moment we have all been waiting for is finally here. Singapore will be raising the size of group gatherings from five to 10 people, as well as making mask-wearing outdoors optional from March 29. The updates were shared by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a national address March 24.

According to PM Lee, these changes are a part of the country’s “decisive step forward” to living with Covid-19.

“After this major step, we will wait a while to let the situation stabilise. If all goes well, we will ease up further,” he said.

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“With more interactions, we too may see another wave of cases, and Omicron will not be the last variant we encounter. The virus will continue to evolve,” said Mr Lee. “Hopefully, new variants will become progressively milder and more flu-like. But it is also possible that more aggressive and dangerous mutants will turn up, just like Delta did.”

If that happens, Singapore may have to backtrack and tighten up restrictions again, he said.

He also urged Singaporeans to enjoy the loosened restrictions but to still remain careful.

“Resume more normal lives, enjoy larger gatherings of family and friends, go outdoors without masks, or reunite with loved ones abroad. But do not throw all caution to the wind,” he said. “Let us all continue to exercise personal and social responsibility: To keep ourselves well, to keep others safe, to avoid adding to the burden on our healthcare workers.”

Following his national address, the Covid-19 multi-ministry task force took over in a press conference where more details were given about the updated restrictions. Here’s what you need to know.

1. Group sizes have been increased to 10

After years of adhering to all the Covid-19 restrictions and adapting to strict dining restrictions, it certainly feels like a collective and national win that Singapore will now be allowing groups of 10 vaccinated individuals to dine in at food and beverage outlets, as well as gather and visit households from March 29. 

This also applies to hawker centres and coffee shops where full vaccination-differentiated checks are implemented at their entrances, according to the Ministry of Health (MOH) on March 24.

"To ease the operational burden for F&B operators, we will allow all F&B establishments to seat smaller groups of up to five fully vaccinated persons, without the need for full Vaccination-Differentiated Safe Management Measures (VDS) checks at their entrance,” said MOH in its media release.

“Instead, random spot-checks will be done to ensure that only vaccinated persons are dining-in at these places, and the onus will be on the dining-in individuals to abide by the rules,” it continued.

Additionally, the current restriction on the sale and consumption of alcohol after 10.30 pm at F&B outlets will be lifted and live performances will be allowed to resume at all venues.

"We will also lift the restriction on the screening of live broadcast programmes and recorded entertainment in F&B establishments,” said MOH.

2. Masks are no longer mandatory outdoors

While many believed that wearing masks will be one of the last Covid-19 rules to be relaxed, PM Lee surprisingly shared that from March 29, masks will no longer be mandatory when you are outdoors.

However, safe distancing of at least one meter is still required.

3. Workplaces and events will be allowed to have larger capacities

Singapore will be increasing the capacity limit for workplaces and events and from March 29. Up to 75 per cent of employees who can work from home can return to their workplaces.

Specific larger-scale social events like gala dinners, corporate dinner-and-dance events, birthday celebrations and anniversaries will also be allowed to resume given the stabilising Covid-19 situation and for consistency with other events, said the Health Ministry.

Capacity limits for larger events and settings with over 1,000 people will be increased to 75 per cent.

4. A second booster jab will be offered to those eligible

Elderly people aged 80 and above, as well as those who have a weakened immune system or have severe chronic diseases, will be eligible to receive a second booster dose for better protection against Covid-19, according to Health Minister Ong Ye Kung.

They will receive the second dose around five months after getting their first one.

That said, individuals who do not take their fourth dose will still have their “fully vaccinated” status maintained, though it is “strongly recommended” for them to do so.

5. Singapore's borders are now open

Singapore is finally reopening its borders to all fully-vaccinated travellers and doing away with all existing vaccinated travel lanes (VTL) and unilateral opening arrangements from April 1, according to the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore.

Instead, it will simplify its travel framework by classifying countries into general travel or restricted. Currently, no countries are in the restricted category. 

In case a new variant with “potentially significant” public health risk pops up, MOH said it may re-classify affected countries and regions under the restricted category with stringent border measures. 

As for now, under the framework, all fully-vaccinated travellers will be able to enter Singapore with just a pre-departure Covid-19 test from 11.59 pm on March 31.

They will no longer need to apply for entry approvals or take designated VTL transport to enter Singapore quarantine-free. The quota on the number of daily arrivals will also be lifted. 

MOH added that it will continue to monitor the local and global Covid-19 situation and consider removing the pre-departure test requirement “in the coming weeks”.

“‘This is a precautionary measure, as Covid-19 cases are rising in some parts of the world,” said Transport Minister S Iswaran during the Covid-19 multi-ministry task force press conference on Thursday.

“‘We will review this requirement in two to four weeks by mid-April, taking into account the prevailing public health assessment,” he continued.

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