Photo Credit: Kirill Petropavlov

Singapore is on track to lift more restrictions on companies and residents by the end of June and expects practically the entire economy to reopen in that phase, according to a top minister.

Minister of National Development, Lawrence Wong said. “With the start of phase two, we expect virtually the entire economy to be reopened — shops, F&B, dining, social interactions, but there will be limits on the number of people who can get together.”

The country is two weeks into the first of a three-phased easing of lockdown measures which started in early April. An outbreak among migrant workers living in cramped dormitories saw Singapore become one of the most infected countries in Asia, with nearly 40,000 recorded total coronavirus cases as of earlier this month.

Wong, who also co-chairs the government task force on fighting the virus, also said that the country was able to manage and control the spread within the city-state through aggressive testing, strict measures, and social distancing. He also said that there is more room to allow additional long-term work pass holders to return to the country, with adequate healthcare and quarantine capacity.

Many expatriates with employment pass holders were stuck outside the city-state, due to Singapore imposing border restrictions and only just introducing fast lane arrangements for business and official travelers with China as of end of December last year, Singapore had more than 190,000 work pass holders, comprising foreign professionals, managers, and executives who earn at least S$3,900 ($2,800) a month.

Although it is unclear on the number of stranded workers outside the city, a dedicated group has emerged on social media that are closely monitoring changes to travel rules with hopes of returning soon.

As the economy restarts gradually with schools and more workplaces reopening, Singaporeans are to be prepared for major changes in social norms for everything from social distancing to hygiene, work-life, and entertainment. Mr. Wong has also mentioned that mass-market travel for tourism is still likely to take some time to resume in Singapore.

Already, the lockdown measures both in Singapore and around the world have exerted a heavy toll on the trade-reliant economy. The government is now forecasting a full-year economic contraction of as much as 7%, which would mark the worst downturn for the country since its independence

The government has announced four separate stimulus packages, taking the nation’s total coronavirus relief to S$92.9 billion, or 19.2% of gross domestic product, as it rolls out support for households and companies that include cash handouts, wage subsidies, rental rebates, and tax waivers.

Under the second phase of the re-opening, more businesses such as retail outlets and gyms are expected to resume operations. Households may be able to receive up to five visitors per day while dining at hawker centers and restaurants could also reopen, with tables to be kept at least one meter apart and limited to no more than five persons.

Furthermore, the government of Singapore will distribute the first batch of portable contact tracing devices to people at the end of this month, to improve the ability to monitor the spread of the virus. There are no current plans of the device being mandatory, although it is set to be distributed to everyone in the country.

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