Singapore taking first steps towards opening the economy
As a first step towards opening the economy, the Singapore government has allowed the reopening of select businesses – more than a month after implementing its Circuit Breaker (CB) Measures on April 7. Food manufacturers, hairdressers, specified food retail outlets and laundry services have been permitted to resume operations starting Tuesday, May 12 following a steady decrease in locally transmitted cases.
Businesses that have been allowed to reopen on May 12 must comply with tighter safe distancing measures in the workplace, including spacing out employees and avoiding staff gatherings. Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in cooperation with the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and the Singapore National Employers Federations (SNEF) have released general workplace guidelines to prevent the re-emergence of community cases. Employers must establish a system of safe management measures at workplaces including implementing a detailed monitoring plan, appointing safe management officers; reduce physical interaction and ensure safe distancing; and support contact tracing requirements. Where employees could perform their work by telecommuting from home, the employer must ensure that they do so. Sector-specific guidelines for manufacturing, customer-facing and transportation sectors have also been released to supplement general guidelines. Locations such as, offices, factories, hospitals, hotels and hairdressers will also be required to use the state-developed contact-tracing app SafeEntry, which will log the arrival and departure of employees and guests from work premises.
Despite the gradual easing of CB restrictions, COVID-19 cases have now surpassed 25,000 and Singapore has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in ASEAN – the 3rd highest in Asia Pacific. An earlier upsurge in cases can be traced to a spate of outbreaks within foreign worker dormitories throughout the island. However, the Singapore government found that transmission in the local community has dropped. The CB period will continue until June 1 and will be followed by a gradual lifting of social distancing measures. However, The Multi-Ministry Taskforce on COVID-19 indicated on May 13, that the reopening of Singapore’s economy would happen in phases. The Government will monitor the number of new COVID-19 cases closely to evaluate how restrictions could be lifted or re-introduced depending on the situation.
Singapore economy expected to contract more, recover slower amid COVID-19
In its macroeconomic review last April 28, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) expects the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) to shrink by between 1 per cent and 4 per cent in 2020 because of the loss of economic activity at home and abroad amid the travel restrictions and lockdowns. This assumes the beginning of a gradual recovery in the second half of the year. But the uncertainty over prospects of COVID-19 containment and drop in external demand may cause consumers and companies to delay spending and keep the global economic recovery more gradual and less decisive. The MAS expects uneven trade impact across Singapore’s industry sectors. Medical-related industries, such as medical technology and pharmaceuticals manufacturing, could experience positive growth. Highly procyclical industries which are related to oil and electronics will likely have the most negative impact. Job losses are projected to be concentrated in the travel-related industries of air transport, accommodation; arts, entertainment, and recreation services; and domestic consumer-facing services comprising land transport, retail trade, food services and other personal services.
Singapore has begun easing restrictions relative to its circuit breaker measures to allow more economic activity. But according to a Morgan and Stanley report on Asia excluding Japan, Singapore could be among the last to recover to pre-COVID-19 GDP levels. The report analyzed three factors: how exposed an economy is to the global recession, the institutional response to handle the Covid-19 situation and the ramifications on domestic demand, and the fiscal policy “firepower” in store should the slowdown persist. Economist Dewi Tan observes that Singapore is one of the countries that has the most room in terms of fiscal policy response and an example of “effective results’ in containing the COVID-19 virus. However, Singapore’s export-oriented economy puts it in a vulnerable position. Export-oriented economies in southeast Asia could take longer to recover from the coronavirus-led slowdown, compared with those with lower exposure to the impact of the global recession. Export-oriented countries that have implemented lockdowns take a double hit on exports and domestic demand. Thus, economies like Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore may have to wait until the first quarter of 2021. China is tipped to recover the fastest in the second half of the year, followed by the Philippines, Indonesia, India, South Korea, and Taiwan.
Singapore passes Parliamentary Elections (Covid-19 Special Arrangements) Bill
On May 4, the Singapore parliament passed the Parliamentary Elections (Covid-19 Special Arrangements) Bill to allow special, temporary arrangements should the next General Election take place during the coronavirus pandemic, so that voters, candidates and election officials can go to the polls safely. The Parliamentary Elections (COVID-19 Special Arrangements) Bill forms part of the contingency planning of the Elections Department (ELD) for the next general elections, which must be held by April 14 2021. The Bill is not related to the timing of the general elections. According to the ELD press release, the Prime Minister will decide when to call the election, considering the challenges confronting the country and the evolving COVID-19 situation.
The first part of the Bill deals with voters who are under COVID-19 stay order, commonly known as “Stay Home Notice” (SHN), or COVID-19 Quarantine Order (QO), or are on MC because of Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI). The second part allows an aspiring candidate to authorize a representative to file his or her nomination papers if the aspiring candidate is unable or unfit to do so because of a COVID-19 SHN or QO, or is hospitalized or in ill health. Trade Minister Chan Chun Sing who is also Minister-in-charge for Public Service explained in his Second Reading speech in Parliament that the Bill will allow voters serving SHN at designated facilities (typically hotels) to vote outside their electoral divisions either at the designated facilities at which they are staying or some other suitable premises (special polling stations). These arrangements allow more voters to be able to vote than it would otherwise be under previous rules.
While supportive of the measure, MP Louis Ng raised several concerns such as the provision of public health and safety measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus at the polling stations. MP Zainal Sapari also requested clarification if there is a minimum number of voters that would warrant the setting up of special polling stations and raised the resource challenges for contesting parties to deploy polling agents to too many polling stations. Minister Chan’s responses are contained in his wrap up speech.
PUB, Sembcorp sign 25-year Power Purchase Agreement for solar farm project
Sembcorp Floating Solar Singapore a subsidiary of conglomerate Sembcorp Industries has inked a 25-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Singapore’s National Water Agency (PUB) to design, build and run the countries largest floating solar platform on Tengah reservoir. The PPA was signed on Wednesday, May 13 and authorizes Sembcorp to begin construction of the 60 Megawatt-peak (MWp) floating solar photovoltaic (PV) farm that is set to be fully operational by 2021.
Under the PPA, Sembcorp Solar will deploy over 146,000 PV panels covering an area of 45 football fields. These PV modules are to be installed on top of a corrosion-resistant float, that is certified to be of food-grade quality, minimizing the impact on the environment and water quality. The solar power generated will be enough to meet the day-to-day energy needs of five of the PUB’s waterworks, making all of Singapore’s waterworks powered by renewable energy. The solar farm will also offset 32 kilotons of carbon emissions annually – the equivalent produced by 7,000 cars. The PPA is not expected to have a material impact on the earnings per share and net asset value per share of Sembcorp, for the financial year ending in December 2020, according to a May 11, Sembcorp press release.
The Tengah reservoir solar farm is the second significant green energy PPA signed by Sembcorp in 2020. On February 12, Sembcorp Solar signed a PPA with Singapore Airlines (SIA) and SIA Engineering Company (SIAEC) to install and operate an 8.2 MWp solar power system on SIA premises. The project is slated for completion in June 2020 and will power 15 per cent of SIA offices energy needs, offsetting 4.3 kilotons of carbon emissions annually – the equivalent of about 900 cars.
|Multilateral Trade Agreements
Belarusian parliament to discuss EAEU-Singapore FTA during spring session Belarusian Telegraph Agency 12th May 2020
MINSK, 12 May (BelTA) – The Standing Commission on Budget and Finance of the House of Representatives of Belarus National Assembly is finalizing a draft law on ratification of the EAEU-Singapore free trade agreement. The parliament will consider it during the spring session, BelTA learned from Deputy Head of the commission Vitaly Vasyukov. BelTA reported earlier that the free trade agreement was signed in Yerevan on 1 October 2019, following the session of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council. Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong stressed that the agreement will facilitate development of industries, investment, and establishment of contacts between people and businessmen.
Singapore to propose post-corona rules for ASEAN travel The Jakarta Post 5th May 2020
Singapore will propose a new protocol that would allow for a cross-border movement of people in ASEAN regions, once the COVID-19 pandemic reaches manageable level. Singapore's Ambassador to Indonesia, Anil Kumar Nayar, said in a press briefing on Monday that ASEAN countries needed to come up with a common set of procedures before travel between countries could resume. "Before reopening, we need to have a common set of checklist of cross border rule before we can open border. This will take time but worth exploring," Kumar Nayar said. He said that ASEAN countries could look to efforts taken by countries like Australia and New Zealand to discuss a travel hub that could soon restart travel between the two countries. The envoy was quick to add that cross-border travel between ASEAN countries could only start if local transmission of COVID-19 could be put under control and mortality rate has reached a low level.
Singapore in touch with South America's Mercosur bloc on free trade talks: MTI The Straits Times 3rd May 2020
Singapore said on Sunday (May 3) that it is in contact with South American bloc Mercosur after a member state pulled out of talks on new free trade agreements (FTAs) the group is negotiating beyond the region. Argentina announced on April 24 its decision to withdraw from ongoing negotiations on potential trade deals, including one between Mercosur and Singapore, saying it needs to focus on the growing economic crisis at home amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Johor state government to establish company in Singapore for boosting trade ties CNA 14th May 2020
JOHOR BAHRU: The Johor state government will establish an investment company in Singapore to improve trade links between both sides, Chief Minister Hasni Mohammad said on Thursday (May 14). Speaking at a press conference, Mr Hasni said the state-owned company, called the Johor Investment Company (JICO), will be setting up an office in Singapore soon. During the same press conference, Mr Hasni highlighted that the state government will review the previous Singapore-Johor-Indonesia (Sijori) growth triangle cooperation. He said that Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has supported the decision and that the Johor state government will meet representatives from Singapore and Indonesia after the Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations to discuss the matter. Sijori was established in 1994 when Johor was under the Barisan Nasional (BN) administration. It was established between Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, to strengthen economic links between the three countries. The cooperation aims to link logistics, transportation and financial strengths of Singapore with the natural and labour resources of both Johor and the Riau province.
Singapore, Chongqing working to keep trade links open amid Covid-19 pandemic: Chan Chun Sing The Straits Times 12th May 2020
SINGAPORE - Singapore is working closely with the Chinese city of Chongqing to keep supply chains open amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said on Tuesday (May 12). Writing on Facebook after he and Manpower Minister Josephine Teo met the city's party secretary, Mr Chen Min'er, and mayor Tang Liangzhi over video conferencing, Mr Chan said both sides also discussed ways to progressively resume travel.
Coronavirus: Singapore, Australia, Canada, South Korea, New Zealand commit to resuming essential cross-border travel The Straits Times 1st May 2020
Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing and trade ministers from Australia, Canada, South Korea and New Zealand have agreed to facilitate the resumption of essential cross-border travel while balancing public health considerations amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Bill passed to pave way for Singapore GE during pandemic if Covid-19 persists The Straits Times 4th May 2020
Parliament passed a law on May 4 to allow special, temporary arrangements to be implemented should the next General Election take place amid the coronavirus pandemic, so that voters, candidates and election officials can go to the polls safely. The upcoming GE must be held by April 14, 2021. Citing this constitutional timeline, and the likelihood that the Covid-19 crisis will last many more months, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing, speaking on behalf of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, said it is prudent to make contingency plans. The Parliamentary Elections (Covid-19 Special Arrangements) Bill allows some electors who are subject to movement control orders to vote and excuses some others for not voting.
Coronavirus: Parliament could meet from 2 or more locations under proposed amendment to Constitution The Straits Times 27th Apr 2020
Singapore’s Parliament could meet from two or more locations amid the coronavirus outbreak with a proposed change to the Constitution which seeks to allow MPs to be spread out in different places while it is in session. Leader of the House Grace Fu - who is also Minister for Culture, Community and Youth - intends to introduce an amendment Bill on this in Parliament next week. This is according to a joint statement issued by the Office of the Leader of the House and the Office of the Clerk of Parliament last April 27. Under the current law, Parliament must meet in one place. If passed, the enacted Bill will come into force for a period of six months, and can be activated by Parliament for six months at a time.
Online portal launched to help investment management professionals upskill The Straits Times 4th May 2020
The online portal - iLearn - was launched to help investment management professionals working in Singapore to upskill. It centralises curated training programmes for these professionals, the Investment Management Association of Singapore (IMAS) announced on May 4. These modules are accredited by the Institute of Banking and Finance (IBF) and fulfil the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) regulatory requirement. The upskilling courses are also recognised under the IBF-Financial Training Scheme and are thus eligible for an enhanced course subsidy - 95 per cent with IBF credit - and a training allowance grant of $15 per hour. The subsidy and grant are part of MAS' support package to defray training expenses and encourage financial institutions, including investment managers, to upskill workers amid the downtime in business activity.
MAS extends scope of loan deferments Singapore Business Review 4th May 2020
Starting May 6, individuals with commercial and industrial loans, student loans, and motor vehicle loans, amongst others, can now choose to defer their repayments, thanks to a second round of financial relief measures launched by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and other financial industry bodies on 30 April. The new set of relief measures for individuals will be provided by financial institutions on an opt-in basis. It covers commercial and industrial property loans, mortgage equity withdrawal loans, renovation and student loans, motor vehicle loans and hire-purchase agreements subject to assessment. Individuals do not need to demonstrate the impact from COVID-19 to obtain these relief measures, and their credit scores will not be affected when they take up payment deferments, according to MAS.
Coronavirus: 40,000 daily tests have to be done in strategic, coordinated way, says Lawrence Wong The Straits Times 8th May 2020
As Singapore ramps up coronavirus testing to 40,000 a day, it needs to have a strategy and do it in a coordinated fashion, said Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong on May 8. Among the top priorities he cited are nursing homes, front-line medical workers in hospitals and migrant workers, whom, he said, should be tested on a regular basis partly because they work in large groups. He reiterated the three purposes of testing that he had set out in Parliament on Monday: first, to find those who are positive; second, to conduct surveillance to understand the overall transmission landscape; and third, to look for those who are negative and to allow them to go back to work.
Employers must pay foreign workers isolated in dormitories even if work passes are cancelled: MOM CNA 8th May 2020
Foreign workers who live in dormitories and are barred from leaving the premises because of COVID-19 measures will have to be paid even if their work passes are cancelled, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). The ministry said that workers living in isolated dormitories are considered to be on hospitalisation leave and employers have to continue to pay their salaries for the entire period they are isolated, or until the worker uses up his hospitalisation leave. Under the Employment Act, all employees are entitled to 60 days of paid hospitalisation leave. In addition, employers can only repatriate their workers after the isolation period ends, MOM said.
Robot reminds visitors of safe distancing measures in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park The Straits Times 8th May 2020
A four-legged robot will be patrolling Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park to remind people of safe distancing measures starting from May 8. Called Spot, the robot will assist with safe distancing efforts at parks, gardens and nature reserves managed by National Parks Board (NParks) and at parks managed by town councils. The pilot trial is jointly conducted by NParks, and the Smart Nation and Digital Government Group (SNDGG). The Spot robot will broadcast a recorded message reminding park visitors to observe safe distancing measures.
3,000 Covid-19 patients housed at six community recovery facilities in SAF camps The Straits Times 6th May 2020
Six CRFs - at Amoy Quee, Bedok, Jurong, Guillemard, Lim Chu Kang and Tanjong Gul camps - started taking in patients on April 28. The latter three camps are vacant, while the others have standalone accommodation facilities separated from the rest of the camp, with no operations there. About 3,000 foreign workers are being housed at the six CRFs so far, out of a total capacity of about 5,300. CRFs are meant for patients who remain well at the end of their 14th day of illness and who do not require further medical care. The authorities had announced on April 28 that more than 10,000 bed spaces will be available at such facilities by the end of June, including at SAF camps.
Singapore developing nationwide COVID-19 testing strategy to better detect unlinked cases in community: Lawrence Wong CNA 4th May 2020
A nationwide COVID-19 testing strategy is being developed, as the Government scales up its testing capacity, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong on May 4. Testing will be prioritized for higher-risk and more vulnerable groups - including those at nursing homes and healthcare workers with “high touch-points” with the community, said Mr Wong. This will then be progressively expanded to other essential workers and the broader community, in line with the “expansion of our testing capacity”, he added. Two key technological tools have been implemented - SafeEntry, a digital tool that logs visitors at all business premises and venues; as well as the TraceTogether app, which uses Bluetooth on phones to identify people who have been in near contact. The ministries are also developing tools for the elderly and young who do not have smartphones, with more details to be announced shortly.
Coronavirus: Attendance not compulsory for students allowed back to school in May The Straits Times 4th May 2020
Precautions will be taken to keep students safe as they are allowed back to school, including institutes of higher learning, from May 19 but attendance is not compulsory. Education Minister Ong Ye Kung also explained that schools will be inviting students in the graduating cohorts to return for coaching and consultations with teachers. Not for formal classes, he added, but to provide support that schools give students in these cohorts every year during the mid-year break. The Ministry of Education (MOE) also clarified on its website that these lessons are not for learning new content, which will be done in Term 3.
Coronavirus: Wet market stalls go online to accommodate shoppers during circuit breaker The Straits Times 3rd May 2020
For the first time on Tuesday May 5, six stalls from the popular Tekka Market in Serangoon will be hawking their fresh produce, meats and vegetables over a livestream on Facebook. Customers will be able to interact with the sellers and ask them more about their items, as they would in the actual wet market, in the comments section of the livestream. The initiative, organised by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and creative agency BlkJ, aims to highlight how shop owners and customers can find new - and safer - ways of doing things during the circuit breaker period.
Tightened circuit breaker measures extended for another week; some activities allowed to resume from May 5 The Straits Times 2nd May 2020
ingapore's tightened circuit breaker measures will remain in place for another week, with businesses like barbers, home-based bakers and laundry services allowed to resume operating on May 12. Some measures will also be adjusted next week. "We are making good progress but we are not yet at single digits when it comes to local transmission, so it is not time to lift the tighter measures we have in place," said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong on Saturday (May 2). "We still need to continue for another week. But we can start making some adjustments."
COVID-19: Some students to be allowed to go back to school from May 19 under easing of circuit breaker CNA 2nd May 2020
As part of the gradual easing of "circuit breaker" measures, the authorities will start to bring back students in small groups for face-to-face lessons from May 19, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said on May 2. “We will focus initially on the graduating cohort that are taking national exams. And so priority will be given to those who require school facilities for their coursework and practical sessions,” said Mr Wong at a virtual press conference held by the COVID-19 multi-ministry task force. Priority will also be given to those who need additional support during the school vacation period, which will begin this year in May instead of June.
Jetstar Asia extends suspension of flights to May 31 CNA 1st May 2020
Jetstar Asia will continue to suspend its flights until May 31, the budget airline said on May 1. This is as border restrictions across the region remain in place and the Singapore Government has extended “circuit breaker” measures to Jun 1, it said. Jetstar services have been suspended since Mar 23. Limited services to Manila, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur to repatriate citizens and permanent residents or for those with prior written approval for travel resumed from Apr 21 and will continue.
COVID-19: Singapore's recovered foreign workers to be housed on SuperStar cruise ships CNA 1st May 2020
Some foreign workers who have recovered from COVID-19 in Singapore have started living aboard a cruise ship docked at Marina Bay Cruise Centre, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) said on Friday May 1. The first workers boarded the SuperStar Gemini - one of two cruise ships cleared to house these workers temporarily - on Wednesday. The second ship, the SuperStar Aquarius, has also passed checks by the authorities and is ready to receive the workers. These are part of the Government’s efforts to transfer workers to alternative living areas to reduce the spread of the virus within their dormitories.
Stay-home notice for foreign workers, dependants in construction sector extended to May 18 The Straits Times 1st May 2020
The stay-home notice that is being served by around 180,000 foreign workers in the construction sector and their dependants will be extended by another 14 days as a precautionary measure to stem the spread of Covid-19, the authorities said on Friday (May 1). The workers, who are work permit and S Pass holders, will now serve their stay-home notice (SHN), initially slated to end on May 4, until May 18, 11.59pm.
New safe distancing guidelines, standards for workplaces after Covid-19 circuit breaker The Straits Times 1st May 2020
When workplace activities gradually resume after the circuit breaker lifts, the Government will need to put in place new guidelines and standards to ensure that they remain safe from potential Covid-19 outbreaks, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said on May 1. Mr. Wong said these guidelines will build upon existing measures to ensure safe distancing in workplaces for workers in essential services, such as wearing masks at work or not having workers socialize among themselves. These guidelines, which will be part of new workplace safety standards, will also be complemented by a testing regimen as well as some form of technology that can ensure better tracking and monitoring should a confirmed case emerge in the workplace.
Tapping AI to battle Covid-19 The Straits Times 29th Apr 2020
Healthcare facilities and technology companies here are tapping artificial intelligence (AI) technology in the fight against the Covid-19 outbreak. They include hospitals such as National University Hospital (NUH) and Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), while several local tech firms have AI offerings now being used in coronavirus mitigation. NUH and TTSH are using a clinical chat assistant smartphone app by Singapore AI start-up Bot MD, which helps doctors and front-line healthcare workers stay abreast of the fast-changing information relating to Covid-19. Bot MD was founded in 2018. Its app is currently used by 13,000 doctors in more than 52 countries. Bot MD chief executive officer (CEO) and founder Dorothea Koh says: "Think of us like a Google Assistant or Apple Siri, but designed for busy healthcare professionals."
New services in Singapore to tap spike in demand for online delivery ZDNet 29th Apr 2020
New services are being introduced to tap growing demand for online delivery in Singapore, with local taxi operator ComfortDelgro launching a food delivery service and Google enabling the discovery of food pick-up and delivery options across the city-state. Google on Tuesday introduced a feature on its mobile payment tool to facilitate the discovery of food pickup and delivery options across Singapore. The tech giant said the new menu discovery tool on Google Pay was developed specifically for the local food and beverage community, including coffee shops and hawker stalls, and enables customers to browse menus, select items, and contact the food merchants to place and pay their orders. They can also opt to pick up their order or have it delivered, said Google. In addition, users can share the menus of their favorite dining outlets with their friends using a custom link on the mobile app.
Local health bodies and tech firms using AI to fight Covid-19 The Straits Times 28th Apr 2020
Healthcare facilities and technology companies here are tapping artificial intelligence (AI) technology in the fight against the Covid-19 outbreak. They include hospitals such as the National University Hospital (NUH) and Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), while several local tech firms' AI offerings are now being used in coronavirus mitigation. NUH and TTSH are using a clinical chat assistant smartphone app by Singapore AI startup Bot MD, which helps doctors and front-line healthcare workers stay abreast with the fast changing information around Covid-19. The app uses AI to power its natural language interface and to extract clinical information from large swathes of content from different data sources.
COVID-19: More than 18,000 bed spaces for isolation and care needs, with 23,000 more in pipeline CNA 28th Apr 2020
Defense & Security
The healthcare capacity to deal with COVID-19 will be increased significantly in the next two months, with the total number of bed spaces for those with mild symptoms doubling by end-June. The ramping up of bed spaces at these community care facilities is part of a wider strategy which includes increasing capacity in other facilities, as well as in manpower, said authorities at a briefing on Tuesday (Apr 28). “Overall, what we have is that we have created more than 18,000 bed spaces for isolation and care needs with another 23,000 in the pipeline,” said Brigadier-General David Neo, director of joint operations at the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).
COVID-19: SAF suspends all large-scale overseas exercises, including Exercise Wallaby CNA 12th May 2020
The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will suspend all large-scale overseas exercises, including Exercise Wallaby in Australia, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) said in a news release on Tuesday (May 12). Inaugurated in 1990, Exercise Wallaby is the SAF's largest overseas exercise and is held at the Shoalwater Bay Training Area in Queensland, Australia. MINDEF said bilateral ties with Australia continue to be strong, and that it looks forward to future editions of the overseas exercise. Amid the coronavirus outbreak, Singapore had already suspended Basic Military Training since Apr 7 and deferred activities for its operationally ready national servicemen, in line with the nationwide safe distancing measures. Training at the Officer Cadet School continues with enhanced safety measures, but overseas exercises have been cancelled. The commissioning parade will also be replaced with a smaller, modified ceremony without visitors.
SAF resumes parachute training after 4-month suspension due to training incident The Straits Times 29th Apr 2020
After a four-month suspension due to a training incident, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) resumed parachute jump training involving cords on Tuesday (April 28), but with new safety measures. These measures include enhanced emergency stop drills, greater supervision of less-experienced jumpers, and lowering the rate of dispatching trainees for jumps so that trainers have more time to react if they need to intervene. The training had been halted following an incident that resulted in Private Joshua Quek suffering a cervical spine injury in Taiwan last December.
Coronavirus: SAF suspends all large overseas exercises, including Exercise Wallaby in Australia The Straits Times 12th May 2020
SINGAPORE - The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has suspended all large-scale overseas exercises - including its biggest overseas exercise, Exercise Wallaby held in Queensland, Australia - because of the Covid-19 pandemic. In a statement on Tuesday (May 12), the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) said: “When conditions improve, Singapore may continue with smaller-scale training activities in Australia, in full compliance with their safety requirements to prevent the spread of disease.”
Firms win Australia-Singapore Military Training Initiative contracts Army Technology 12th May 2020
The Australian Government has awarded three defence contracts worth $6m to three central Queensland-based companies. Awarded under the $2.25bn Australia-Singapore Military Training Initiative (ASMTI), the contracts aim to reinforce the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between the two countries. Companies awarded for various civil and fencing works are JRT Civil in Yeppoon, Bellequip in Rockhampton, as well as Tunuba in Rockhampton.
New safety measures as SAF parachute training resumes after 4 months The Straits Times 30th Apr 2020
After a four-month suspension due to a training incident, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) resumed parachute jump training involving cords on Tuesday, but with new safety measures. These measures include enhanced emergency stop drills, greater supervision of less-experienced jumpers, and lowering the rate of dispatching trainees for jumps so trainers have more time to react if they need to intervene
$1.3m lost to e-commerce scams in first quarter of this year The Straits Times 2nd May 2020
E-commerce scams more than doubled in the first quarter of this year, with 1,159 cases recorded, compared with 536 cases in the same period last year. The amount lost to such scams rose from $469,000 in the first quarter of last year to more than $1.3 million in the same period this year, according to the latest figures released by the police on Thursday. The increase is partly due to circuit breaker measures that have seen more people staying home and relying on the Internet to work remotely, study and connect with friends, said the commander of Bedok Police Division, Assistant Commissioner of Police Julius Lim.
Businesses given green light to reopen on May 12 need not seek approval to do so: MTI The Straits Times 6th May 2020
All businesses in categories given the green light to resume operations on May 12 can do so without needing to seek approval, the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said on May 6. This means all food outlets selling packaged snacks, cakes, confectionery and desserts as well as home-based food businesses and hairdressers can reopen, subject to restrictions. Hairdressers may only offer haircuts. MTI will grant these businessses a class exemption to resume business during this period, subject to them fully implementing safe management measures. Dining in remains banned
Structural and mindset changes needed to improve wages and living conditions of foreign workers, say analysts The Straits Times 6th May 2020
Improving the wages and living conditions of foreign workers in Singapore requires a whole-of-society effort. Not only must the Government take the lead in making structural changes, but Singaporeans, too, must change their us-versus-them mindset, said analysts. This goes beyond healthcare, and is driven by the mental model that citizens have different rights and privileges. The previous paradigm, of relying on the employers and dorm operators alone, cannot work in a crisis of this scale and complexity.
About 50,000 shareholder-directors to benefit from enhanced COVID-19 wage support scheme CNA 4th May 2020
A recent enhancement of a wage support scheme to include those who are also shareholders and directors of companies will benefit about 50,000 people, said Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in Parliament on May 4. These qualifying shareholder-directors will start receiving payouts under the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) from May, which will also include back-payment for the month of April. Mr Heng said the change was made to the scheme after authorities received feedback from shareholder-directors, especially those from smaller companies and start-ups.
MAS expects more job losses, wage cuts as economy deals with ‘large, abrupt shock’ from COVID-19 CNA 28th Apr 2020
The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is expecting a rise in job losses as the local economy grapples with the fallout from the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Even with the slew of measures aimed at saving jobs, the “abrupt pullback” in economic activity will weigh heavily on labor demand across broad swathes of the Singapore economy this year, it warned in its latest half-yearly macroeconomic review released April 28. Slack in the labor market will increase, even as businesses make adjustments by reducing working hours and putting employees on no-pay leave. Some firms will also reduce workers’ salaries, according to the central bank, noting that wages will likely “bear the brunt” of these adjustments in the near term.
PUB, Sembcorp inked 25-year power purchase agreement Singapore Business Review 14th May 2020
National water agency PUB and Sembcorp Industries’ subsidiary Sembcorp Floating Solar Singapore, signed a 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA), according to an announcement. The agreement is to build a 60 megawatt-peak (MWp) floating solar photovoltaic (PV) system on Tengeh Reservoir. The solar power generated is said to meet the energy needs for operations at PUB’s five local waterworks, including Marina Barrage. This follows PUB's announcement in appointing Sembcorp to design, build, own, and operate the project. Under the agreement, Sembcorp will deploy over 146,000 solar panels at Tengeh Reservoir in Tuas to generate energy and offset about 32 kilotonnes of carbon emissions annually.
NEA launches new $1.76 million fund to help organisations treat and recycle food waste The Straits Times 7th May 2020
The National Environment Agency (NEA) has committed $1.76 million to a new fund that will help alleviate the problem of food wastage in Singapore. NEA said that the fund is in line with efforts to secure Singapore's climate resilient future and help companies transition towards a zero-waste economy amid the current challenging economic conditions. The fund is capped at $100,000 per applicant and covers the capital cost of food waste treatment systems, accompanying equipment such as bin lifters and infrastructural improvements.
Petrol prices drop to $2 level, a week after crude oil's record lows The Straits Times 1st May 2020
Food & Agriculture
Pump prices here have fallen by up to six cents a litre, a week after crude oil plunged to record lows. Latest updates by fuel price tracker Fuel Kaki - managed by the Consumers Association of Singapore - showed that the price of 95-octane petrol, the most popular grade here, was $2.04 across all brands by yesterday afternoon. Pump operators began making reductions on Wednesday, with newcomer Sinopec following yesterday morning. Caltex, which made smaller cuts on Wednesday, matched its rivals by around 1.30pm yesterday.
Coronavirus: Food sellers grapple with container shortage as takeaway orders shoot up The Straits Times 14th May 2020
As takeaway and delivery orders shot up after the circuit breaker period kicked in last month, a chicken rice seller drove around frantically in search of disposable food containers. The shortage and high prices of food containers were a common refrain among eatery and stall operators after dining-in was banned as circuit breaker measures took effect on April 7. Of the 28 operators contacted by The New Paper, seven said they had problems with supplies and several others complained of having to pay up to 20 per cent more as prices went up because of demand. As food sellers try to cope with the container problem, some environmentalists are urging customers to take along their own containers for takeaway orders. If more people do that, they argue, it would not only ease the container shortage but also help the environment by reducing plastic and styrofoam waste.
Nine multi-storey carpark rooftops in Singapore to be converted to urban farms The Straits Times 12th May 2020
Health & Life Sciences
The rooftops of a handful of multi-storey carparks in Singapore will be converted for use to farm vegetables and other food crops from the later part of this year. The tender for nine such sites was launched on Tuesday (May 12) by the Singapore Food Agency (SFA). They include five single sites in Ang Mo Kio, Tampines, Toa Payoh, Hougang, and Choa Chu Kang and two cluster sites - which comprises two sites each - in Sembawang and Jurong West. The size of the sites ranged from 1,808 sq m - or one-third of a football field - to 3,311 sq m - or three-fifths of a football field. Each site is up for tender for a term of three years. For cluster sites, the successful tenderer will be awarded all sites within the cluster.The launch is one of the strategies adopted by the SFA to increase local food production as part of Singapore's 30 by 30 goal - to produce 30 per cent of the country's nutritional needs locally by 2030, said SFA and the Housing Board (HDB) in a joint statement.
Speedoc's Telemedicine Service to support Singaporeans during CB BioSpectrumAsia 11th May 2020
24/7 house-call doctor app Speedoc has brought forward its launch of telehealth services to serve the community better amidst COVID-19 circuit breaker (CB) measures. Speedoc app users can now consult a Singapore-registered General Practitioner (GP) from Speedoc’s pool of over 50 doctors through video-conferencing hosted on the platform. The introduction of telemedicine adds to Speedoc’s existing portfolio of house call doctors, nurse visits, ambulance booking services, and medicine delivery. Users can also obtain prescriptions, medical certificates and specialist referrals via their consultations.
COVID-19: Mandatory for SIA, SilkAir and Scoot passengers to wear face masks on board, observe safe distancing CNA 10th May 2020
Face masks will soon be mandatory for passengers travelling with Singapore Airlines (SIA), its regional wing SilkAir and budget carrier Scoot, as part of new measures to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. From 11.59pm on Sunday, all passengers on SIA and SilkAir flights must bring their own face mask on board and wear it throughout the flight, said SIA in an advisory on its website on Saturday (May 9). Passengers will also have to observe safe distancing measures when embarking and disembarking, as well as when queuing for the lavatory.
COVID-19: MOM lays out requirements firms must meet to resume operations at workplaces CNA 9th May 2020
As Singapore moves to gradually ease circuit breaker measures, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Saturday (May 9) laid out requirements firms will need to meet to resume operations at workplaces. The requirements for general workplace settings fall under six categories. They include implementing a system of safe management measures at workplaces, reducing physical interaction and ensuring safe distancing at workplaces. Employers must also support contact tracing requirements, require personal protective equipment and personal hygiene, ensure cleanliness of workplace premises and implement health checks and protocols to manage potential cases.
Coronavirus: Urgent IVF cases allowed to proceed, says MOH The Straits Times 8th May 2020
The coronavirus pandemic has not only upended many lives but also aborted the plans of some couples to bring new life into the world via in-vitro fertilisation (IVF). With the circuit breaker measures in effect, couples like Madam Lee Yunting and her husband have had to shelve their baby-making plans until after June 1, when the circuit breaker period is expected to end. The 32-year-old art and design school instructor was turned away by three medical institutions - two public and one private - last month. The reason: The hospitals have to focus on essential procedures.
Singapore restarts mask production to secure supply for frontline medical staff The Business Times 7th May 2020
SINGAPORE has restarted local production of medical-grade surgical face masks to ensure supply for its medical workers in the frontline fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said on Wednesday. But Singapore will still continue to expand and diversify its external sources for masks to meet the needs of its population and to stockpile for the possibility of a second wave of Coronavirus attack, he told local reporters in a Zoom interview on Wednesday. Mr Chan said Singapore's position is to keep working with other countries to keep supply chains open rather than resort to protectionism.
Singapore offers hope to patients with underactive bladders BioSpectrumAsia 6th May 2020
Dr Faezeh Arab Hassani, a researcher from the National University of Singapore (NUS), has recently invented a device that can monitor bladder volume in real time and effectively empty the bladder. This innovation may open up a new treatment option for patients with underactive bladders in the near future. Dr Arab Hassani worked closely with researchers from the NUS Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering, the NUS Department of Biomedical Engineering, as well as lead collaborator Professor Takao Someya and his research team at the University of Tokyo, and took more than a year to develop the novel bladder system. This breakthrough was first reported in the journal Science Advances on 1 May 2020.
Intellect launches CBT-based digital therapy app MobiHealthNews 29th Apr 2020
Singapore-based digital health company, Intellect, which was founded in 2019, has recently launched an app that provides a new form of digital therapy without any human intervention. The personalized app transforms conventional face-to-face therapy into bite-sized modern self-therapy sessions at the user’s own convenience. It tackles a variety of issues pertaining to the user’s personal behaviors, relationships, and work habits, through comprehensive month-long programs they’re calling ‘Learning Paths’ as well as more instant standalone ‘Rescue Sessions’.
Singapore designs AI platform to combat infectious diseases BioSpectrumAsia 27th Apr 2020
As the COVID-19 crisis continues to develop, researchers around the world are attempting to find the most effective treatment to combat the poorly understood virus behind this disease. With this in mind, Professor Dean Ho from the National University of Singapore (NUS) led a multidisciplinary team of researchers to come up with a pioneering artificial intelligence (AI) platform known as ‘IDentif.AI’ (Identifying Infectious Disease Combination Therapy with Artificial Intelligence) to dramatically increase the efficiency of this development.
Critical self-reliant healthcare life-supporting supply chain to emerge post COVID19 BioSpectrumAsia 27th Apr 2020
Singapore based ABM Respiratory Care, a medical device company focused on the development and commercialization of airway clearance and ventilation solutions has developed an innovative ventilator which helps healthcare professionals monitor and program the device from anywhere in the world in real-time. ABM is preparing for fast-track approval of its Tele-Ventilator with regulatory agencies in several countries, including Singapore. Biospectrum Asia explored more on the prevailing Global ventilator demand-supply crisis with Mr Vinay Joshi, CEO and Head QA RA, ABM Respiratory Care.
Early estimates of the indirect effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on maternal and child mortality in low-income and middle-income countries: a modelling study The Lancet Global Health 14th May 2020
While the COVID-19 pandemic will increase mortality due to the virus, it is also likely to increase mortality indirectly. In this study, we estimate the additional maternal and under-5 child deaths resulting from the potential disruption of health systems and decreased access to food. Our least severe scenario (coverage reductions of 9·8–18·5% and wasting increase of 10%) over 6 months would result in 253 500 additional child deaths and 12 200 additional maternal deaths. Our most severe scenario (coverage reductions of 39·3–51·9% and wasting increase of 50%) over 6 months would result in 1 157 000 additional child deaths and 56 700 additional maternal deaths.
Hummingbird invests US$25 M on Series B Extension BioSpectrumAsia 11th May 2020
Hummingbird Bioscience, an innovative biotherapeutics company focused on the discovery and development of new breakthrough therapies, has closed an extended Series B funding round of US$25 million. This brings the total capital raised through financing activities and strategic partnerships to more than US$65 million to date. The Series B round was extended to US$25 million due to significant over-subscription, with the addition of select quality and value-add investors. Hummingbird will use the new funds to accelerate development of new candidates into clinical trials and strengthen its scientific and research and development capabilities.
Healthcare Academy partners with MindFi to offer free mindfulness app subscription for healthcare workers MobiHealthNews 4th May 2020
Singapore-based mobile technology company MindFi has partnered with Labour Movement's Healthcare Academy to offer healthcare workers free access to MindFi's popular mindfulness mobile app. Dubbed 'Mindcare', this social impact initiative looks to benefit more than 90,000 public and community healthcare workers including doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, community caregivers and first responders by offering them a free one-year subscription to the app which is available on both iOS and Android devices. Healthcare Academy is a collaboration among Healthcare Services Employees' Union (HSEU), Employability and Employment Institute (e2i) and NTUC LearningHub (LHUB).
Singaporean Daren Tang officially appointed next head of UN intellectual property agency WIPO CNA 8th May 2020
Mr Daren Tang has been officially appointed the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)'s next director-general. Mr Tang, who is currently the chief executive of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS), will helm the specialised United Nations (UN) agency from Oct 1 for a term of six years, the Ministry of Law and IPOS said in a joint press release on May 8. This marks the first time a Singaporean will lead a UN agency, and Mr Tang will be WIPO’s first director-general from Asia. The confirmation comes after it was announced in March that Mr Tang had won the nomination for the position in Geneva, beating five other candidates for the job.
IBM, IMDA, M1, AND SAMSUNG TO COLLABORATE ON SINGAPORES FIRST 5G INDUSTRY 4.0 TRIAL Infocomm Media Development Authority 8th May 2020
IBM, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), M1 Limited (M1) and Samsung today announced Singapore’s first 5G Industry 4.0 trial, to demonstrate the transformative impact of 5G for enterprises and drive the next bound of Singapore’s digital economy. The trial aims to develop insights and showcase benefits of 5G in Industry 4.01. It will be an innovation model that allows for development, testing and benchmarking of 5G-enabled solutions that can be applied across various industries.
Scam victims lost $41.3 million in Q1; e-commerce and loan scams among most common The Straits Times 4th May 2020
E-commerce scams proved to be the most common in the first three months of this year, with "Covid-19 related items" accounting for about one in four such cases. Fake loan schemes were another common tactic as scammers got away with at least $41.3 million in total between January and March this year. The total amount lost has grown by 27.9 per cent compared with the figure in the same period last year, the police disclosed in a media release on May 4. Police said that fraudulent sellers duped 1,159 victims out of at least $1.3 million in e-commerce scams in the first quarter of this year. The largest amount lost in a single case was $175,000.
First set of enhanced data security measures for public sector implemented The Straits Times 30th Apr 2020
The public will now be able to whistleblow on suspected data breaches by government agencies under a common framework to safeguard citizens' personal data. On April 30, the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO) said that the new measures will improve accountability and transparency of the public sector data security regime, and enhance the Government's effectiveness in responding to incidents promptly, and notifying affected individuals in the event of a data incident. The committee was convened by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in March last year following a spate of cyber security breaches, including the SingHealth incident when hackers stole the data of 1.5 million patients and the outpatient prescription information of 160,000 people in June 2018.
Singapore's first drone delivery service takes flight The Straits Times 29th Apr 2020
Singapore's first drone delivery service has started, with the first parcel containing 2kg of vitamins dropped onto a ship anchored off the island on April 19. The 2.7km, seven-minute flight took place off Marina South Pier, under a one-year deal inked between shipping giant Eastern Pacific Shipping (EPS) and local start-up F-drones. Each drone can take up to 5kg of supplies and travel up to 5km offshore each way. F-drones is the first company to receive authorisation from the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) for such deliveries.
More reliability for Circle Line with inking of 16-year servicing pact between SMRT and Alstom The Straits Times 6th May 2020
The Circle Line (CCL) is set to become more reliable for commuters with the signing of a 16-year servicing contract between train operator SMRT and French rail multinational firm Alstom. The long-term agreement announced on May 6 comes with unspecified "performance guarantees" and ensures the "continued reliability and availability" of the control systems that run the CCL. Alstom built the CCL and the trains that run on it, and is also involved in supplying signalling equipment for the upcoming Thomson-East Coast Line. Until 2035, Alstom will provide spare parts, repairs, obsolescence management and technical support for the CCL.
JB-Singapore RTS Link project suspended for another 3 months until Jul 31 amid COVID-19 outbreak CNA 2nd May 2020
The suspension of the Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link project has been extended by another three months until the end of July, Singapore’s Ministry of Transport (MOT) said on Saturday (May 2). Singapore COVID-19 "circuit breaker" measures and Malaysia's movement control order have "affected the pace of our discussions", said the ministry. Malaysia’s Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong had said earlier on Saturday that bilateral discussions with Singapore on the project have been impacted by measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus on both sides of the Causeway. This is the third extension of the suspension at Malaysia's request.
Singapore construction sector to shrink 10.3% this year from Covid-19 measures: Fitch Solutions The Straits Times 29th Apr 2020
Singapore's construction sector is poised to take a hard hit from the Covid-19 outbreak in the short-term, and is now expected to contract sharply by 10.3 per cent this year in real terms, according to Fitch Solutions. This is down from its previous forecast of a 3.2 per cent contraction, making Singapore the worst hit market in the Asia-Pacific region, the market insights firm said in a research note released on Wednesday (April 29).
Singapore and Malaysia delay deal on rail project to end-July The Star Online 3rd May 2020
Travel & Tourism
Malaysia and Singapore have agreed to delay finalising an agreement on a US$736mil train project connecting Malaysia's southern state of Johor with the city-state to the end of July, their transport ministries said on Sunday (May 3) The countries agreed to extend the deadline for three months to July 31 after talks on the scheme, known as the Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link, were hit by curbs on movement to stem the coronavirus, Malaysia's Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong said in a statement. In a separate statement, Singapore's transport ministry said it hoped to wrap up discussions with Malaysia soon, adding that it would be the final extension.
Singapore Airlines posts first annual net loss in 48-year history after COVID-19 cripples demand CNA 14th May 2020
SINGAPORE: National carrier Singapore Airlines on Thursday (May 14) reported the first annual net loss in its 48-year history after COVID-19 crippled travel demand, saying that it has set up an internal task force to review its operations and to prepare for when air travel recovers. Analysts said that the recovery of Singapore’s aviation and tourism sectors in the wake of COVID-19 will be painfully slow, but that the market will fully recover eventually and Singapore could emerge as an even stronger hub over the long term due to strong government support. The Government has set aside S$750 million of support for the aviation sector to help it recover more quickly from the blow dealt to it by COVID-19.
Singapore clocks 4th straight record year for tourism arrivals and receipts in 2019 The Business Times 5th May 2020
Before the Covid-19 pandemic devastated international travel, Singapore had its fourth consecutive record year for tourism in 2019, with healthy growth in the fourth quarter, said a Singapore Tourism Board quarterly report on Tuesday. International visitor arrivals grew 6.9 per cent year on year in the fourth quarter of last year, to 4.8 million; tourism receipts rose 12.8 per cent to S$7.1 billion. These took full-year figures to a record 19.1 million arrivals, up 3.3 per cent, and S$27.7 billion in receipts, up 2.8 per cent.
Singapore visitor arrivals in March lowest since Sars outbreak in 2003 The Straits Times 29th Apr 2020
The number of arrivals last month represents an 85 per cent year-on-year drop, according to figures published by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) on the Singapore Tourism Analytics Network website. The last fall of this magnitude was during the peak of the Sars, outbreak in April and May 2003, when Singapore received 217,000 visitors and 191,000 visitors respectively. Figures show that Indonesia was the top source of visitors with about 46,500 arrivals, followed by the United Kingdom with 20,600 and Australia with 18,700.