Wearing face masks & working from home must remain the default to reduce risk in public: Wong

Think twice before you head out.

Zhangxin Zheng | June 15, 2020, 09:04 PM

Singapore's Multi-Ministry Taskforce (MTF) on Monday announced a host of social activities and businesses that can resume from June 18 at 11:59pm, the time Phase 2 of the country's exit from Circuit Breaker mode kicks in.

These include social visits of up to five people, reopening of retail outlets and public facilities and resuming dine-ins at eateries.

As more people start to head out in Phase 2 for work and social purposes, MTF co-chair and Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong reminded members of the public to continue putting on face masks and businesses to allow employees to work from home when possible to reduce crowding on public transport.

No change to wearing mask policy

Wong said safe distancing on public transport is already difficult even in Phase 1 as some have started heading back to their workplaces.

This is why talking is not allowed on public transport, with all commuters required to keep their face masks on at all times.

Public transport operators have also stepped up their cleaning regimes.

Moving into Phase 2, Wong said this practice must continue:

"Yes, the wearing of masks will continue to apply as a requirement in Phase 2, whenever you are out. So there's no change to the wearing rule regarding wearing of masks."

Work from home is important for business continuity

Wong said working from home or telecommuting continues to be an important measure in Phase 2, and this should remain the default setting even as more businesses reopen from June 19.

Allowing more people to work from home will help to reduce the number of commuters during peak hours — this, in turn, will help solve anticipated crowding on public transport.

"So even if more businesses are allowed to reopen, they should continue to ensure that staff employees who can work from home continue to work from home; that will also help with the public transport issue."

It should also be in the interest of business owners to do so, Wong added. If businesses do not take safe management practices seriously, they might risk turning the workplace into an infection cluster and be forced to shut down.

Wong said:

"Because remember, if the businesses do not take safe management practices seriously, if they have lots of their employees come back to the workplace, not socially distanced, they come for meetings together, should there be an infection in the workplace, then potentially many of the employees will be quarantined, the entire workplace may have to be shut down.

But if workplaces are responsible, and they do what is required of them but also do what is in their own self interest — have split team arrangements, have team A/team B, have as much of their staff work from home as possible — then, even if there were to be an infection in the workplace setting, the business may not need to close, and many of the staff may not be impacted, because it would have been separated; many will be working from home so there will be business continuity.

So I think it's in the interest of all businesses while we allow for them to reopen in Phase 2."

Other related stories about Phase 2:

Top photo via LTA/Facebook