Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has announced that all workplaces in the city-state will close from April 7 to May 4 inclusive, except for essential services such as utilities, supermarkets and food centres, and logistics and transport. All workers who are able to telecommute will do so. Schools will also close from April 8, with students moved to full home-based learning.
In his address on April 3, the prime minister called on all citizens to stay at home and strictly reduce any social contact or movement except for essential errands. “Essential services will continue running, so that all of us can cope with the new situation as we batten down to fight this virus,” he said, urging Singaporeans not to rush to hoard food or other essentials.
This major move follows the fifth Covid-19 death in the city-state, and a continuous increase in the number of cases despite stringent contact tracing and repeated attempts to control the movement of potential cases.
Alongside attempts to control the spread of the virus, the government has already set aside billions of dollars to support affected businesses and keep workers in the hardest-hit sectors employed, and is now preparing legislation to ensure that landlords pass on rental rebates to their tenants, and to allow businesses severely affected by the pandemic to defer contractual obligations.
Following the prime minister’s speech, minister for trade and industry Chan Chun Sing asked businesses not to view this measure as a shutdown. “I want to emphasise that this is not about business closure. This is about closing the premises for a duration in order for us to adopt the enhanced safe distancing measures. This distinction is important. Many businesses will still be able to operate,” he said, listing food-related services, security services, and financial services among those that will keep their doors open, along with stores providing DIY essentials. Some businesses, he said, can also continue to operate online.
Manpower minister Josephine Teo said that in the event that businesses are required to scale back or cease operations entirely, the government will work to support the affected employees. “We appreciate that employers and workers will be making many adjustments,” she said, and called upon employees to provide mutual support for each other.
Updated with additional statements from government leaders as released.