COVID-19: Experts View on Singapore’s Safe Distancing Laws

29 March 2020

Safe distancing laws in Singapore

1. Introduction

As the developments of the coronavirus outbreak continue to evolve, many countries have gone on total lockdowns to prevent further spread of COVID-19. Singapore cannot be complacent and therefore, the Multi-Ministry Taskforce has implemented safe distancing measures to minimise exposure.

In view of the recent spike in the number of infected cases, Singapore’s continued efforts to contain and limit the spread of the coronavirus, saw sweeping measures announced by the Singapore Government’s Multi-Ministry Taskforce last Tuesday.

2. Stricter regulations in Singapore

Singapore is enforcing stricter measures that would limit gatherings outside of work and school to 10 persons or fewer, and ensure that physical distancing of at least one metre can be achieved in settings where interactions are non-transient. These measures will take effect from 26 March 2020, 2359 hours. These measures are in place until 30 April 2020, but this may be extended if the situation does not improve.

Following from the Ministry of Health’s announcement on stricter safe distancing measures, government agencies such as Enterprise Singapore, Housing & Development Board, National Environment Agency, Singapore Food Agency, Singapore Tourism Board and Urban Redevelopment Authority have drawn up safe distancing measures for food and beverage (F&B) establishments to provide a safer dining environment for customers. All F&B establishments – from smaller ones like takeaway kiosks and cafes, to larger outfits such as restaurants – must comply with these enhanced safe distancing measures.

Some of the recent measures involve:

  1. All bars and entertainment venues like night clubs, discos, cinemas, theatres, and karaoke outlets, where there is a high risk of transmission due to sustained close contact over a period of time, will be closed until 30th April;
  2. Gatherings outside of work and school must not exceed 10 persons;
  3. Retail malls, museums and attractions, where contact is more transient, may remain open. However, operators are to ensure the following:
  • Reduce operating capacity within the venue at any one time, so that the venue does not have more than one person per 16 square metres of usable space. This is to significantly reduce the density of crowds in these venues, especially during peak periods.
  • Groups must not exceed 10 persons.
  • Shows within attractions (indoor and outdoor), group tours at the museums, and open atrium sales events will be suspended.
  • Disperse congregations and provide an environment that allows at least one metre physical spacing between patrons. These include queues and waiting areas. Operators are encouraged to offer services by appointment or through digital services where possible, to minimise queues. Crowds should be quickly cleared.
  • Places that are unable to adhere to these requirements must be closed. Additional penalties may be imposed on those which are found to have been a place of transmission of COVID-19, if the venues are found not to have adhered to these requirements.

The Ministry of Health will be enforcing the Regulations under the Infectious Disease Act to give legal force to the safe distancing measures. The Penalty for an offence under the Regulations would be a fine of up to S$10,000 or imprisonment of up to six months or both.

3. Jing Yen comments in SCMP

Our partner, Chooi Jing Yen comments on the South China Morning Post:

“There is a very strong symbolic element to the new regulations. These regulations are premised on the notion that the struggle against Covid-19 is a collective societal effort. The introduction of penal sanctions would serve to reinforce the advisories and regulations already in place, which have sought to normalise social distancing and other preventive measures. These new laws would allow the authorities to send a strong message to anyone who refused to play his part in this effort. It may well be that a small handful of prosecutions would be enough to achieve this effect.”

For safe distancing to be effective, all Singaporeans must take it seriously and do their part.