For many, COVID 19 is becoming the pandemic without end. The dangers of re-infection and new outbreaks are still present. Over the past 12 months or so cities like Singapore have ducked and weaved and shadow-boxed to create a situation that makes living with COVID truly acceptable.
Flashback to September 2021. In the face of rising COVID cases the Singapore government enacted laws dictating that if COVID-19 case is detected at a workplace, employers had a maximum of one day to implement a “snap 14-day work-from-home regime” for all employees.
The draconian measures were deemed necessary to regain control of what was fast becoming a dangerous situation.
WFH measures no longer default in 2022
It worked. Then, from Jan 1, 2022 50 per cent of employees – who were fully vaccinated or had recently recovered from COVID – were allowed to return to the office.
Over subsequent months the measures were progressively relaxed as the situation eased and workplace norms returned. Finally, on April 26th all COVID restrictions were relaxed and employers encouraged to permanently offer flexible work arrangements (FWAs) to all their staff.
Employees encouraged to take advantage of new workplace flexibility
They were also advised to embrace the new arrangements as a permanent part of the new future of work in Singapore.
“FWAs help employees achieve better work-life harmony and promote a more engaged and productive workforce,” said Government representatives at the time. “Employers who offer FWAs will also benefit from talent attraction and retention. In addition, these employers will be able to tap on a larger pool of manpower, such as caregivers and seniors, who might otherwise not be able to remain in or join the workforce.”
Employees, meanwhile were requested to use their new flexible work arrangements responsibly and ensure continued work productivity.
But what does this ‘new norm’ actually mean for working people and how does it impact their day-to-day lives as we move through 2022? Our Q & A answers some of your questions*.
How many staff are now allowed back into their workplace?
From April 26th all employees in Singapore were allowed to return to the workplace; up from the limit of 75 per cent of those who can work from home, which had been in place since late March.
Employees can now also go mask-free when not physically interacting with others, and when they are not in customer-facing areas.
However, everyone is still advised to exercise social responsibility and maintain an appropriate safe distance from others while unmasked.
Are there any limits on group sizes?
No. There is no longer a cap on group sizes.
This means you no longer need to keep to groups of 10 people for mask-off activities. The cap on the number of unique visitors per household has also been lifted.
What about safe distancing and capacity limits?
Safe distancing is no longer required between individuals or groups.
The capacity limit of 75 per cent for mask-on events with more than 1,000 people has also been removed.
Masks are still compulsory in indoor settings however, including on public transport. The government also encourages individuals to exercise precautions by wearing a mask in crowded outdoor areas, for example.
Are vaccination-differentiated measures still in force?
Vaccination-differentiated safe management measures have now been removed from nearly all settings.
Proof of vaccination is still required for food and beverage (F&B) establishments such as restaurants, coffee shops and hawker centres, as well as events with more than 500 participants at any one time. Proof of vaccination is also still required for nightlife establishments where there is dancing.
What about contact tracing?
In tandem with the easing of vaccination-differentiated requirements, Singapore has also relaxed the use of contact tracing measures TraceTogether and SafeEntry in settings such as malls, supermarkets and places of worship.
SafeEntry check-in is still needed for locations where vaccination-differentiated measures still apply.
These tools will be maintained for the foreseeable future to enable Singapore to rapidly step up contract tracing and vaccination checks if there is a need to do so.
Will travellers to Singapore still require pre-departure testing?
All fully vaccinated travellers entering Singapore via air or sea checkpoints no longer need to take a pre-departure test.
This new rule also applies to non-fully vaccinated children aged 12 and under.
Is travel between Malaysia and Singapore now easier?
Cross-border bus and taxi services between Singapore and Malaysia resumed from May 1, two years after operations were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Travellers will be able to take Services 160, 170 and 170X operated by SBS Transit, Service 950 operated by SMRT Buses, and Services TS1, TS3, TS6 and TS8 operated by Transtar Travel.
Those looking to take a cab can board one at the Queen Street taxi terminal or book a ride through companies with licensed cross-border taxi drivers.
What has happened to health risk notices?
As of April 26, the Health Ministry stopped issuing health risk notices (HRN) to close contacts. Those infected with COVID-19 also no longer need to submit details of household contacts online.
Can Singaporean citizens still access free testing?
Free community antigen rapid tests (ART) and weekend acute respiratory infection (ARI) testing at combined test centres and quick test centres ended on Apr 26.
Paid antigen rapid testing are still available however.
Do citizens still need boosters?
In view of waning immunity, a booster dose is currently recommended for recovered persons, aged 12 and above, who have completed their primary vaccination.
From June 1, recovered individuals will need to receive a booster dose within nine months of their last primary vaccination jab in order to maintain their vaccinated status.
They can walk into any vaccination centre to get a booster but should note that several of these centres are currently being consolidated. In fact, some ceased operations on May 31.
*For more details on Singapore’s regulations for COVID 19 do not hesitate to visit the Singapore Ministry of Health’s website
Looking to move to Singapore either as an employer or an employee? CXC are global workforce management specialists with expert staff on the ground in Singapore ready to assist. If you’d like to find out more, don’t hesitate to contact us!