Singapore said company employees who can work from home will probably have to continue doing so even after the country's partial lockdown ends on June 1.
Others in sectors such as manufacturing, which require workers to be onsite, should start making preparations for the gradual re-opening of the economy in coming weeks, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing told reporters on Sunday. They should put in place sustainable measures to prevent a flare-up of the coronavirus outbreak, he said.
Authorities on Saturday said some workplaces and services will resume operations from May 12, while certain groups of students will be allowed to return to school the following week. More than 80% of Singapore's workforce is now working at home after the city-state implemented "circuit-breaker" measures including the closure of schools and most workplaces in early April.
For those who are able, "we expect them to continue to work from home for the foreseeable future," Chan said. "Many people have gotten used to the use of the Internet platforms. For work that doesn't require much onsite activity, they will pretty much continue, and these form the bulk of our economy."
Singapore reported another 657 Covid-19 infections on Sunday, bringing the country's total to more than 18,200. That's a jump from the 447 additional cases on Saturday, the smallest increase in more than two weeks. The majority of infections in Singapore are linked to migrant workers living in cramped and oft-unsanitary dormitories.
"The number of cases amongst migrant workers has been fluctuating in recent days due to clearance of backlogged cases by one laboratory," the Ministry of Health said Sunday. Authorities are "working with the laboratory to stabilize its operations," it said.
Apart from biomedical and petrochemical industries, which have remained open, the city-state is prioritizing businesses that are important in the global supply chain to resume operations from May 12, Chan said.
Companies that restart work must ensure employees maintain safe distances from each other, have appropriate rest areas, and do necessary tests for higher-risk groups. Employees also shouldn't mix and interact beyond work, he said.
"Beyond the circuit-breaker period, we want to make sure that we balance the safety of our people together with sustainable operations," Chan said. "We continue to need to maintain our vigilance because if there's any lapse in our focus then we might risk a relapse of the situation or a flare-up."
Food manufacturers, home-based food businesses, some retail outlets for deliveries and takeaways, and laundry and hairdressing services are allowed to restart operations from May 12, the Ministry of Health said Saturday.
Students sitting for national exams and those at some higher-education campuses will be allowed to return to school in small batches from May 19, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said Saturday.
The fight against infections remains challenging and the government is still studying what measures will be adjusted in June, Wong said. Restrictions on the movement of foreign workers at dormitories will be extended to June 1 as the country continues to battle a spike in coronavirus cases.
"Even in the month of May, the steps we are taking may well have to be adjusted further depending on how the situation unfolds," he said.