Asia Pacific / Science & Health

Singapore proposes banning gatherings amid coronavirus

Bloomberg

Singapore is considering new laws that would ban both public and private gatherings of any size as the city-state ramps up social distancing measures to fight the coronavirus, said health minister Gan Kim Yong.

Laws debated during parliament on Tuesday would criminalize 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 his speech received by email.

The proposed 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 coronavirus and unlinked infections have continued to rise in the country in recent weeks.

When passed, the new rules will be valid for six months and will empower the health minister or any public officer authorized 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,” Gan was cited as saying in the transcript.

The proposed bill also restricts the usage of specific premises and facilities, including common areas in public housing estates and private apartments. The penalty for noncompliance is a fine of up to 10,000 Singapore dollars ($7,000), imprisonment of up to six months, or both for first time offenders. Second or subsequent offenses will see penalties of up to SG$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 meter in settings where interactions are nontransient, 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 Gan.

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