Financial sector to safely transition to Phase 2 of Circuit Breaker

The Multi-Ministry Taskforce on June 15 announced that the Circuit Breaker measures will transition to Phase 2 and the financial sector will move to this phase as well

Financial institutions (FIs) in Singapore that re-open more branches and customer service locations, and resume more in-person financial services from 2359 hours on 18 June 2020, must ensure that Safe Management measures are in place. This is in line with the announcement by the Ministry of Health that Singapore will be moving into Phase Two of the re-opening and the Ministry of Manpower’s requirements for Safe Management measures at the workplace.

financial sectorInstitutions in the financial sector can have more staff return to their work premises to meet their customer, business and operational needs, even as those who can work effectively from home should continue to do so.

Branches and customer service locations that had remained closed during Phase One will progressively re-open. FIs will also be permitted to resume in-person meetings with their customers on an appointment basis, at their business premises or elsewhere. In doing so, FIs must ensure that they implement all necessary Safe Management measures including wearing of masks, practising safe distancing, and using SafeEntry .

Even as customers of institutions in the financial sector will have expanded access to in-person services, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) strongly encourages FIs and their customers to continue using digital financial services and e-payments as much as possible.

The financial sector has continued to provide a high level of service to its customers throughout the Circuit Breaker period and the Phase One re-opening, through agile adjustments to work processes and the pervasive deployment of digital solutions. Reflecting Singapore’s role as a leading international financial centre in Asia, FIs continued to operate their wholesale and international businesses normally even as the large majority of their staff worked from home.

MAS said that it will continue to work with institutions in the financial sector to enhance their ability to operate in a pandemic and remain resilient against any resurgence of COVID-19 infections.

The Multi-Ministry Taskforce has assessed the situation and decided to start Phase Two after 18 June 2020, 2359 hours. It said that the community infection rates have remained generally stable despite the increase in workplace activity in Phase One of re-opening. It noted that the incidence of cases in migrant worker dormitories has also declined, and there are no new large clusters emerging.

In this next phase, the Taskforce’s goal is to ensure that efforts taken during the circuit breaker period and Phase One of reopening are sustained. By limiting close contact among individuals, while maintaining hygiene and safe management principles, they will be able to resume more activities without substantially raising the risk of new clusters of infections.

Apart from a small list of exceptions, Phase Two will see the resumption of most activities, subject to the following safe distancing principles:

  • As a default, measures should be put in place to ensure that individuals maintain safe distancing of at least one metre at all times.
  • Where not feasible or practical to apply one metre safe distancing between individuals, this one metre requirement can instead be enforced between groups, with each group made up of not more than five persons, and with no mixing between groups. Other safe management measures should also be in place.

Similarly, small-group social gatherings of up to any five persons can also resume. Within the home, households may receive up to five visitors at any one time.

After 18 June, 2359 hours, retail businesses may re-open their physical outlets. Food and beverage dine-in will also be allowed to resume, subject to liquor sales and consumption ceasing at 2230 hours. However, live music and television and video screenings will not be allowed in all F&B outlets at this stage. Larger public venues with high human traffic such as malls and large standalone retail outlets will be subject to capacity limits, and operators will be required to prevent crowds or long queues from building up within and in the immediate vicinity of their premises.

Personal health and wellness, and home-based services will also be allowed to resume. Registered clubs and societies will be allowed to operate at their registered premises. Tuition and other private enrichment classes can resume, with the exception of singing or voice training classes. All other healthcare services, including eldercare services in the community, individual health screening and aesthetic services, will resume with safe distancing measures in place. Face-to-face visitations at residential facilities for the elderly (including nursing homes, welfare homes, sheltered homes and adult disability homes) will also resume with precautionary measures in place.

Sports, parks and other public facilities will also open. These include playgrounds, beaches, lawns and fields, stadia, swimming complexes, sports halls, hardcourts, gyms, fitness studios, bowling centres and function rooms. This applies also to similar facilities in private settings such as condominiums and clubs.

The complete list of businesses that are allowed to operate can be found on MTI’s website.

However, they are required to submit the number of workers who are working on-site via the GoBusiness portal within two weeks of the date of resumption of on-site operations. In the interest of reducing physical contact between individuals, telecommuting must remain the default for all businesses where feasible.

In settings run by permitted businesses, such as for F&B dining-in or classes where individuals come together for activities, the one metre safe distancing requirement may be waived only if each group is made up of not more than five persons, and subject to overall safe management measures as indicated earlier.

The Taskforce said that further guidance for various sectors will be provided by the relevant agencies in the coming days, leading up to the start of Phase Two. Businesses and organisations are reminded to play their part to keep Singapore safe. Should they be unable to meet safe management principles, businesses and organisations can engage relevant agencies to seek approval for alternative safe distancing measures. Such businesses and activities should only open when they are ready. Businesses and organisations found to be flouting safe management principles may be required to close.

Written by Ravi Chandran

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