Singapore to Reimpose Some Curbs Amid Karaoke Virus Cluster

Singapore will temporarily close hundreds of nightlife venues and re-enforce stricter measures for dining-in just days after relaxing them, as a jump in daily Covid-19 cases linked to karaoke outlets deals a setback to the city’s efforts to reopen.

The country will impose different restrictions on the local population based on their vaccination status, according to details released at a multi-ministry task force briefing on Friday, while ministers warned that further restrictions may be necessary if daily cases continue to rise.

“This is a major setback in our journey to recovery and I understand many Singaporeans will be disappointed, and so are we. We must respond to this emerging cluster quickly, especially to protect those who have not yet been vaccinated completely,” said Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong.

The health ministry said in a statement Friday that while the new cluster will delay reopening plans, the vaccination progress puts it in a strong position to reopen once the situation is contained. More first doses have been given out in Singapore, per capita, than almost anywhere else in Asia.

Singapore to Reimpose Some Curbs Amid Karaoke Virus Cluster

Individuals will only be allowed to dine-in at restaurants in groups of two from 19 July through to 8 August, although those who are fully vaccinated or recently recovered from Covid-19 can continue to dine in a group of five.

Other measures during this period include:

  • Temporarily closing for two weeks at least 400 nighttime venues that pivoted during the pandemic to food and beverage establishments
  • Restricting the number of “mask-off” people in indoor high-intensity activity classes
  • Hawker centers, coffee shops and food courts will be limited to groups of two regardless of vaccination status
  • Social events at workplaces will no longer be allowed

A cluster of infections tied to karaoke lounges -- which were closed at the start of the pandemic and later reopened as food and beverage outlets -- pushed daily virus case numbers in the community to a 15-month high earlier this week. 53 new cases were reported today, 32 of which are linked to the lounges.

The cases came as Singapore’s government pledged that it would ease out of a “Covid-Zero” elimination stance toward a new normal that treats the virus as an endemic problem.

Vaccination

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung told reporters as recently as Wednesday that the government didn’t plan to reverse its recent easing of social gathering restrictions, as it did after prior cluster outbreaks, saying then that the country was in a “much more resilient position than before” because of increased vaccination.

Singapore previously said that reopening would be tied to its vaccination rates, which are rapidly rising, though not yet at the levels set out earlier that could trigger further easing. The government is targeting two-thirds of the population to be fully vaccinated by its National Day of August 9. More than 50% of the population is expected to be fully vaccinated next week, Ong said.

“That plan was announced before we have this big cluster. So for the time being, we will have to monitor the situation,” said Ong. “We cannot just dogmatically implement it. In fact, we have to watch infection numbers.”

Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the country’s virus task force with Ong, added: “The consequence of every single action can be so consequential now. As we have seen, one single irresponsible behavior can have devastating impact for the entire community.”

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