SINGAPORE – From Wednesday (Nov 10), fully-vaccinated people from the same household will be able to dine out in groups of up to five, given that the Covid-19 situation has stabilised.

But this easing of measures will not extend to hawker centres and coffee shops, as they are unable to carry out comprehensive checks on all diners.

“As we gradually reopen, it is inevitable that the number of Covid-19 cases may rise, as seen in our past experience,” said Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong at a press conference on Monday.

This is why vaccination-differentiated measures will continue to be a key part of Singapore’s reopening strategy, said Mr Gan, who is one of three co-chairs of the multi-ministerial task force tackling the pandemic.

A careful, step-by-step approach will be taken to ease current restrictions so that the Republic’s healthcare system does not get overwhelmed, added Mr Gan.

This means the group size for social gatherings will remain at two persons, and households can still have only two unique visitors a day.

The maximum dine-in group size for those not from the same household will also remain at two.

Anyone who attempts to flout the dine-in group-size rule by pretending to be from the same household, as well as food and beverage outlets that do not implement the necessary checks, will face strict enforcement action, said the Ministry of Health (MOH).

“Errant individuals will be fined, and F&B outlets will be subject to immediate closures.

“These penalties will apply even for first-time offenders,” it said in a statement.

MOH said it is prepared to extend the group-of-five rule to hawker centres and coffee shops once they have put in place additional control measures.

The National Environment Agency will be engaging hawkers’ associations on this, while the Singapore Food Agency will work with coffee shop operators. Further updates will be provided when read, said the ministry.

Taskforce co-chair and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said authorities will take a practical approach in implementing checks. For instance, adults with children will likely be from the same household, while it will be “quite clear” which other groups are not from the same household.

“And if these groups do gather together in a restaurant…that’s when we will take firm enforcement actions,” he said.

Monday’s press conference saw a slew of other announcements, including the opening up of several new vaccinated travel lanes and an update that the Expert Committee on Covid-19 Vaccination is assessing the data to extend vaccination to children aged five to 11.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, another task force co-chair, said Covid-19 patients who are unvaccinated by choice will have to pay for their medical bills starting Dec 8. But they will still be able to tap on regular Government subsidies and MediShield Life or private Integrated Shield insurance plans.

The Government will continue to cover bills for people who are ineligible for vaccination, such as children aged under 12 and those who are medically ineligible.

“Our hospitals really much prefer not to have to bill these patients at all,” he said. “But we have to send this important signal to urge everyone to get vaccinated if they are eligible.”

Text: Linette Lai/The Straits Times