Singapore has reimposed strict social distancing measures, banning in-person dining at restaurants and limiting social gatherings to two people following a wave of new Covid-19 cases.
The restrictions will go into effect on Sunday, just weeks before the country is set to host the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual high-level defense summit that would have been the first major international event in Singapore since the start of the pandemic last year.
The measures are also expected to delay the opening of a travel bubble with Hong Kong that was due to start on May 26, the second time an effort to resume flights between Asian financial hubs has been delayed.
Singapore has taken an aggressive approach after reporting 71 locally transmitted cases last week, 15 of which are unrelated.
Authorities recorded 24 infections on Thursday, a relatively low level by global standards. But the recent increase in cases and the emergence of new clusters follow months of single-digit or no-time infections daily.
Authorities have also identified a new cluster of 46 cases at Changi Airport that may involve the more easily transmissible B. 1.617.2 coronavirus variant that was first discovered in India. A separate cluster in a Singaporean hospital includes this variant.
“We are on a heightened state of alert,” Gan Kim Yong, Singapore’s health minister, said on Friday.
Transport minister Ong Ye Kung said the increase in the number of cases meant it was “very likely that Singapore would not be able to meet the criteria for recovery” for the travel bubble with Hong Kong.
The new measures will be in effect for one month, but will be reviewed after two weeks. Outdoor gatherings or home visits will be limited to a maximum of two people and restaurants will only be allowed to offer take-out or deliveries. Working from home will also become the default formula.
The Shangri-La Dialogue attracts senior military officials, diplomats and arms manufacturers and was scheduled to take place in person from June 4. Confirmed attendees include Lloyd Austin, the US Secretary of Defense.
The think tank of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, which organized the event, said it remained “committed” to holding the conference. “We will quickly review our existing security management measures in light of today’s announcements to ensure the highest levels of security for all of our participants and the wider community in Singapore,” he said. added.
The World Economic Forum also announced that it holds its annual meeting in Singapore in August rather than in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, as the health crisis eased in the Asian city.
The World Economic Forum did not respond to requests for comment.
The new restrictions discouraged some residents who had lived a semblance of normal life for months. “It’s a good way to have a lockdown without calling it a lockdown,” said a city-based finance official.
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