JUNE 20 — So in good news, Singapore is loosening the restrictions it imposed in May following a spike in locally transmitted Covid-19 cases.
Almost a month ago, restaurants and bars were closed to the public and public gatherings were limited to two people and work from home was made the default option.
But as cases have once again decreased with deaths remaining extremely low and with a largely successful vaccine drive underway, the government has decided to reopen — but only very gradually.
From June 21, restaurants will be able to re-open for dine-in customers but only tables of two will be permitted.
Gyms will once again be able to reopen but wedding receptions and other large scale gatherings will remain restricted.
While it’s great to see moves towards reopening, the truth is we are still a long way from normality. And this limbo has now gone on for a very long time.
We are now well over a year into this pandemic. The problem I think is partial restrictions are sometimes harder to comprehend than full lockdowns.
If no one can go out at all, that is clear but now we can go out but a family of four has to sit at different tables?
Meanwhile, friends can meet at home — as up to five visitors a day are permitted but that same group can’t go out for a meal or even a walk together.
It’s hard to keep it all straight.
I think many restaurants/food and beverage businesses in general face a genuine dilemma.
If they reopen under these conditions, they will incur the same costs as usual — you need as many waiters and kitchen staff as before but your capacity to earn money with reduced opening hours and no groups is severely diminished.
Basically it’s hard for businesses not to struggle while the government has offered support to affected businesses. In the long term, this doesn’t compensate for lost spending.
The situation is similar for many retail shops and the question remains: For how long will these restrictions remain and on what basis will they be imposed and re-imposed.
For example, music will be banned at restaurants when they reopen but is it really true that music at venues increases the spread of Covid19?
The logic being put forward is that if music is played, customers will speak more loudly... potentially spreading the coronavirus with their breath.
But has this theory in fact been tested scientifically? Musicians and bands have been decimated by the restrictions, many have simply had to give up their livelihoods even while promoting the creative arts has recently become a major priority for Singapore.
Fundamentally to retain public support, people need to be convinced that the benefits of these restrictions outweigh the cost of the disruption.
But with higher and higher proportions of the population vaccinated, it will be hard to convince Singaporeans that restrictions are proportionate to the threat.
If all things remain broadly equal, a much more major reopening will have to come soon and I think for many it can’t come soon enough.
*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.
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