Singapore Analytical Update: April 3, 2020

Singapore Analytical Update | April 3, 2020
Authors: Lilibeth Almonte-Arbez, Sarah Lessing, J-ren Ong, Marc Mealy, Shay Wester, Kim Yaeger

Singapore Government Announces “Circuit Breaker” Measures to Contain COVID-19

On April 3, 2020, Prime Minister (PM) Lee Hsien Loong announced that Singapore would be taking decisive action to prevent escalating COVID-19 cases. He likened stricter measures to a “circuit breaker” which would “reduce the risk of a big outbreak occurring”. Singapore has been progressively tightening its social distancing measures, by encouraging work from home for businesses and enforcing social distancing measures in public spaces. The Council released an update on earlier measures.

Government service counters will be scaled down while digital services will continue to be available. On April 8, 2020, all schools and higher learning institutions will close and move to full home-based learning.

From April 7, 2020, workplaces with the exception of key economic sectors and essential services will be closed until May 4, 2020. F&B outlets (including restaurants, hawker centres, coffeeshops and food courts) can continue to operate for take-away and/or delivery only.

The specific industries that the Singapore government highlighted as essential are:

  1. Health and Social Services
  1. Food services
  1. Energy
  1. Water, Waste & Environment
  1. Defence and Security
  1. Transportation and Storage
  1. Information and Communications
  1. Construction, Facilities Management and Critical Public Infrastructure
  1. Manufacturing & Distribution
  1. Banking & Finance

The government also singled out other services that will not be affected by workplace closures such as:

  1. Selected hotels, serviced apartments, dormitories, hostels
  1. This includes establishments supporting SHN; GQF; CIF and accommodation needs of students, foreigners, and foreign workers affected by travel restrictions, as well as for existing occupants only.
  1. Hotels must close all on-site recreational facilities. Their F&B facilities may remain open only for takeaway or delivery. Hotels must also minimise the numbers of on-site staffing. All hotel staff who can perform their roles remotely (e.g., finance, HR) must telecommute.
  1. Online retail and related supply chains
  1. Hairdressing & barber services
  1. For provision of basic haircut services only.
  1. Optician services and sale of optical products
  1. Plumbers, electricians, & locksmiths
  1. For emergency household services only.
  1. Vehicle recovery and repair services
  1. For emergency vehicle services only, no vehicle grooming.
  1. Hardware stores
  1. For sale of building and maintenance-related equipment and tools only.
  1. Retail and repair of consumer electronics, IT peripherals, and household appliances
  1. Laundry services for Essential Services
  1. Veterinary services
  1. For provision of emergency, non-elective veterinary services, including hospitalization.
  1. Selected face-to-face Continuing Education & Training (CET)
  1. For job placement needs or for severely affected economic sectors
  1. Pet supplies stores (for provision of animal feed, no grooming or leisure activities allowed)
  1. For provision of animal care, feed and supplies only, no cosmetic/ grooming or leisure activities allowed.
  1. All other critical and ancillary services contracted by the Government for the provision of supporting Government functions or for the above-mentioned Essential Services.

The Government of Singapore will update the list of essential services at

Entities providing essential services must comply with the following:

i. All activities that can take place through telecommuting must be done from home.

ii. Employers must implement safe distancing measures to reduce physical interactions by:

    1. Reducing the need for and duration of physical interactions;
    2. Staggering working hours;
    3. Postponing all group events; and
    4. Implementing shift work and/or split team arrangements.

Application for essential services exemption

A company has to suspend on-site activities if the company’s activities are not listed as essential. If a company believes that its activities are essential, an application for an exemption must be coursed through with the relevant supporting information including justifications for why activities are essential. All applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Companies must wait for approval of their exemption application before re-commencing onsite activities.

General or time-limited exemptions for non-essential services companies

Through, companies providing non-essential services could apply for a general exemption to maintain a small workforce at the place of business for safety purposes or for a time-limited exemption for selected functions that need to continue but cannot be performed via telecommuting due to sensitivity (e.g. payroll processing); to perform maintenance of the facility, attend to perishable products, receive deliveries or perform other necessary tasks. Please apply for a time-limited exemption here.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) issued a press release on the suspension of activities at workplace premises to reduce COVID-19 transmission. A copy of MTI guidelines on the suspension of activities at workplace premises to reduce COVID-19 transmission is attached. Recent Singapore government announcements on COVID-19 are available here.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MITI) has also established a hotline for enquiries at:

+65 6898 1800 (Monday to Sunday, 8am to 8pm)

or contact

The Council will continue to monitor developments and update members.