SINGAPORE - Singapore will start easing some curbs put in place to contain the spread of the coronavirus over the next few weeks, authorities said on Saturday, as the city-state takes the first tentative steps towards reopening its economy.
Selected activities such as home-based businesses, laundry services and barbers will be allowed to operate from May 12. Some students will be allowed to go back to schools in small groups from May 19.
Some work premises will be allowed to gradually reopen, taking into account their importance to the economy and supply chains and their ability to minimize risks of transmission.
Singapore is facing the deepest recession in its 55-year history, compounded by restrictions called 'circuit breakers' due to last until June 1, which include the closure of most workplaces and shops.
"We are preparing for the safe and gradual resumption of economic and community activities after the end of the circuit breaker period on 1 June 2020," the ministry of health said in a statement.
Singapore has among the highest number of infections in Asia, mainly due to outbreaks in cramped migrant workers' dormitories. It has managed to curb the spread of the disease among locals outside the dormitories.
It reported 932 new coronavirus cases on Friday, taking its total infections to 17,101, and has suffered 16 virus-related deaths.
The average daily number of new cases outside the dormitories has dropped by more than half to 12 in the past week, from 25 in the week before.
Authorities said SafeEntry, a digital check-in system to log details of visitors and employees, will be deployed extensively across the country to help with contact tracing.
The government said the measures could still be adjusted depending on the situation, and that people should continue to stay at home and not meet in groups.
"Even as we ease and adjust some of these measures, the bottom line is this - this is not the time to slacken and let our guard down," Singapore minister Lawrence Wong, who co-heads the country's virus fighting task force, told a media briefing.
"We are not out of the woods," he said.