Singapore to ban gatherings

Singapore to ban gatherings

A man wearing a protective face mask walks past closed shops during the firs't day of circuit breaker' measures to curb the coronavirus outbreak in Singapore on Tuesday. (Reuters photo)
A man wearing a protective face mask walks past closed shops during the firs't day of circuit breaker' measures to curb the coronavirus outbreak in Singapore on Tuesday. (Reuters photo)

Singapore is adopting new laws that ban both public and private gatherings of any size as the city-state ramps up social distancing measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Laws debated in parliament on Tuesday criminalise gatherings among friends or family members who are not living together — and apply to private quarters or public spaces such as parks, according to a copy of a speech by health minister Gan Kim Yong.

The clampdown on meetings comes on a day when the city-state closed most workplaces, except for essential services and key economic sectors. It’s also moving to fully home-based learning in schools. Local transmissions of the virus and unlinked infections have continued to rise in the country in recent weeks. Channel News Asia and Today Online reported the laws were passed.

The new rules will be valid for six months and empower the health minister or any public officer authorised by him to appoint enforcement officers to take action against individuals, business owners or entities which flout the orders and requirements.

“We will not hesitate to take action against such persons and send a strong signal to prevent such behaviour from negating our collective efforts during this crucial circuit breaker to slow down the infection,” Mr Gan was cited as saying in the copy of the speech.

The bill also restricts the usage of specific premises and facilities, including common areas in public housing estates and private apartments.

The penalty for non-compliance is a fine of up to S$10,000 ($7,000), imprisonment of up to six months, or both for first time offenders. Second or subsequent offenses will see penalties of up to S$20,000, imprisonment of up to 12 months, or both.

The government previously announced regulations to limit gatherings to a maximum of 10 people outside work or school. People were told to exercise physical distancing of at least one metre in settings where interactions are non-transient, such as queuing or sitting.

The circuit breaker laws will be imposed until May 4. “We will review the situation then, to decide whether there is a need to extend the circuit breaker period, and if so, whether some of the measures need to be adjusted,” said Mr Gan.


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