Last updated 25 March 2020
The COVID-19 global pandemic is a challenging time for all of us. Given the fast changing situation, we will be forced to navigate new rules and requirements as they develop.
To help you navigate these rules and regulations, we have done a summary of the key laws and best practices issued by the Singapore government to date. This summary applies in three situations: (1) When a person has been tested positive with COVID-19, (2) When a person has been issued with one of the various quarantine / stay-home orders, and (3) When applying precautionary measures to your businesses and workplaces.
Types of orders
|Type of order||What is the difference?||Where is it served?||Instructions||Impact on household members||Leave policy||Salary support|
|Quarantine order (QO)||Directive under the Infectious Diseases Act with penalties for non-compliance. Issued by the government to quarantine or isolate an individual who is, or is suspected to be, a carrier of an infectious disease, or a contact of a person confirmed to have an infectious disease.||Place of residence, or dedicated Government Quarantine Facilities (GQFs) or hospitals, if suitable accommodation is unavailable – one person per room with ensuite toilet.||Must not leave designated location for any reason. Three times daily: Required to take temperature, report to QO agent, video call monitoring. Spot checks may be conducted.||To be isolated and to avoid physical interaction with household members. Household members to be taken to hospital if they display symptoms.||Period of absence treated as paid hospitalisation leave, as part of hospitalisation leave eligibility under employment contracts.||QO Allowance Scheme – $100 per day may be claimed by (1) Self-employed QO-issued SG Citizens & PR, and (2) Employers of QO-issued SG Citizens, PR, Workpass Holders.|
|Stay-home notice (SHN)||Precautionary measure to prevent transmission of infections. Issued by the government, with penalties for non-compliance.||Place of residence.||Must not leave designated location for any reason. Monitor for fever (twice daily) and respiratory symptoms closely.||Not necessary to segregate from household members, but encouraged to reduce interaction and minimise contact.||Employers may adopt the following: Flexible work arrangements; Treat as paid hospitalisation leave or paid outpatient sick leave; Allow employees to apply for annual leave; Allow employees to use advanced paid leave or apply for no pay leave; or Other mutually agreed arrangements.||SHN/LOA Support Programme – $100 per day may be claimed by (1) Self-employed QO-issued SG Citizens & PR, and (2) Employers of QO-issued SG Citizens, PR, Workpass Holders. Further details are found at Part 3(ii) below.|
|Leave of absence (LOA)||Less strict than SHN. Also a precautionary measure to prevent transmission of infections. May be imposed by the government or by employers on their employees.||May leave place of residence for necessities, but strongly advised to minimise time in public spaces. Monitor for fever and respiratory symptoms closely.|
Measures imposed where a person has tested positive for COVID-19
|Who may be affected||Measures imposed||Good practices|
|Employer of a confirmed case.||Ministry of Health (MOH) contact tracing officers will engage the employer to identify persons at the workplace who may have had close contact with the confirmed case. Employer to cooperate with the contact tracing officers and provide them with the necessary assistance and support. MOH contact tracing officers will assess who should be placed on quarantine. Upon being notified of the confirmed case, employers should also adopt the following precautionary measures: Immediately vacate and cordon-off the immediate section of the workplace premises where the confirmed case worked. There is no need to vacate the building or the whole floor if there had been no sustained and close contact with the confirmed case; and Carry out a thorough cleaning and disinfecting of that section of the workplace premises in accordance with NEA guidelines.||Employees may be unable to remain physically at their workplaces if they have been asked to vacate their work stations or are pending assessment by MOH contact tracing officers. If it is not feasible for such employees to work from home, employers should exercise flexibility and treat such absences as paid hospitalisation leave or paid outpatient sick leave. In general, MOM encourages employers to provide timely information to employees on latest developments and reassure employees and other relevant persons, e.g. customers, of the measures being taken to ensure their well-being at the workplace. Employers should regularly keep in touch with an employee who is a suspect or confirmed case or was placed on quarantine. If the employee has used up his or her medical benefits provided for under the employment contract and/or collective agreement, employers should consider providing additional medical coverage and help the employee tide over the period of possible financial hardship.|
|Close contacts of a confirmed case, including family and colleagues.|
Close contacts are defined as: (i) anyone who had provided care for or has had close physical contact with the patient; (ii) anyone who had stayed at the same place as a confirmed case.
|To cooperate with MOH contact tracing officers. Do not give false information or risk prosecution under the Infectious Diseases Act. May be issued with Quarantine Order or Stay-Home Notice – To comply with measures imposed, as summarised in Part 1 above. The health status of all close contacts will be monitored closely for 14 days from their last exposure to the patient. Those who develop symptoms will be brought to the hospital via a dedicated ambulance for further assessment.||Monitor health closely.|
|Infected person.||Infected person will be treated in an isolation room, until well enough to be discharged. Supportive treatment is provided based on the patient’s clinical condition. Prior to discharge, two swab tests at least 24 hours apart are done, using sputum samples, nasal or throat swabs. Doctors may also conduct tests with faecal or urine samples. Tests on consecutive days have to be negative before patients can be discharged. Patients are also given a date for follow up at the hospital. Singapore Government will pay for hospital bills incurred by Covid-19 patients in public hospitals, except for outpatient treatment at general practitioner clinics or polyclinics, and treatment sought at private medical facilities.||Strictly comply with all medical advice.|
Ongoing precautionary measures
Border control measures
- From 23 March 2020, 2359 hours, all short-term visitors (from anywhere in the world) will not be allowed to enter or transit through Singapore. MOM will only allow the entry / return of work pass holders, including their dependents, for those providing essential services, such as in healthcare and transport. All Singapore Citizens, Permanent Residents and Long Term Pass holders returning to Singapore from Hubei province will be issued a 14-day QO. All Singapore Citizens, Permanent Residents and Long Term Pass holders returning to Singapore from all other countries will be issued a 14-day SHN.
- 25 March 2020, 2359 hours, all UK and US returnees will be transported directly from the airport to dedicated hotel facilities to serve their 14-day SHN. Each will have their own room/toilet, and will be provided all their meals, so that they may avoid physical contact with other individuals. All returnees from the UK and US who are presently still serving out their SHN in their homes may also apply to stay in these dedicated facilities.
- From 31 January 2020, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will reject all new work pass applications for foreign workers from mainland China until further notice. Renewal applications for existing work pass holders will not be affected.
- All employees arriving from mainland China (excluding Hubei province) between 31 January 2020, 1800 hrs and 18 February 2020, 2359 hrs were required to go on a Leave of Absence (LOA) for 14 days from the day of arrival in Singapore.
- All employees arriving in Singapore after the dates specified in the table below and have travel history within the prior 14 days to the specified areas and countries are required to serve a 14-day Stay-Home Notice (SHN):
|Had recent travel history to||On SHN if arrive in Singapore|
|Mainland China (excluding Hubei province)||After 18 February 2020, 2359 hours|
|Daegu city and Cheongdo county (South Korea)||After 26 February 2020, 2359 hours|
|Iran, northern Italy or South Korea||After 4 March 2020, 2359 hours|
|ASEAN countries, Japan, Switzerland and the United Kingdom||After 16 March 2020, 2359 hours|
|All other countries||After 20 March 2020, 2359 hours|
- On 18 March 2020, MOH advised the public to defer all travel abroad.
- Any Singapore resident or Long Term Pass holder who leaves Singapore from 27 March 2020, in disregard of the prevailing travel advisories, will be charged at unsubsidised rates for their inpatient stay at public hospitals, if they are admitted for suspected Covid-19 and have onset of symptoms within 14 days of returning to Singapore. Singapore residents will also not be able to claim from MediShield Life or Integrated Shield Plans for these treatments at public and private hospitals.
- Any work pass holder or his/her dependant who leaves Singapore from 27 March 2020 will be deprioritised for entry approval and could see significant delays before they are allowed to return to Singapore if they persist in travelling abroad and return infected.
- From 20 March 2020, all students and staff in schools, preschools and student care centres who returned from overseas between 14 and 20 March 2020 will be placed on a mandatory 14-day LOA from the date of return. MOM encourages employers to similarly impose LOA for all employees returning to Singapore between 14 and 20 March 2020 if they have not been issued with SHN.
- MOM will allow employers and self-employed persons (SEPs) to claim for the $100 daily support for such company-imposed LOA (company-LOA) under the Leave of Absence Support Programme (LOASP).
- LOASP for employers and SEPs will not be applicable if:
- work was performed remotely during the company-LOA period;
- the affected employee was required to use his own annual leave or other paid leave entitlements; or
- the affected employee was placed on mandatory SHN upon return to Singapore but the travel did not commence before the specified dates below:
|Mainland China||on or before 31 January 2020|
|Daegu city or Cheongdo county (South Korea)||on or before 26 February 2020|
|Iran, northern Italy or South Korea||on or before 4 March 2020|
|Italy, Spain, France or Germany||on or before 15 March 2020|
|ASEAN countries, Japan, Switzerland and the United Kingdom||on or before 16 March 2020|
|All other countries||on or before 20 March 2020|
From 26 March 2020, 2359 hours, Singapore will implement stricter safe distancing measures, which include:
- Entertainment venues
Bars and entertainment venues like night clubs, discos, cinemas, theatres, and karaoke outlets, where there is a high risk of transmission due to sustained close contact over a period of time, to be closed.
- Public venues
- Retail malls, museums and attractions, where contact is more transient, may remain open.
- Shows within attractions (indoor and outdoor), group tours at the museums, and open atrium sales events will be suspended.
- Operators are to ensure the following:
- Reduce operating capacity within the venue at any one time, so that the venue does not have more than one person per 16 square metres of usable space.
- Groups must not exceed 10 persons.
- Disperse congregations and provide an environment that allows at least one metre physical spacing between patrons. These include queues and waiting areas. Operators are encouraged to offer services by appointment or through digital services where possible, to minimise queues. Crowds should be quickly dispersed.
- Retail malls and attractions that are unable to adhere to the above requirements must be closed.
- Additional penalties may be imposed on those which are found to have been a place of transmission of COVID-19, if the venues are found not to have adhered to these requirements.
- Organised tours in public venues (e.g. sightseeing, guided walking tours) to be suspended.
- F&B venues
- Activities such as live music or karaoke which are likely to cause patrons to congregate are to cease.
- F&B outlets must set up their spaces (arrangement of tables and seating) to ensure separation of at least one metre between tables or different groups of diners. Related diners (e.g. family members, couples) may be seated together at one table, but the tables must be spaced out. Groups of diners should be limited to 10 persons or ferwer.
- Patrons of eating establishments with fixed seating – for example, hawker centres and coffee shops – must use alternate seats. Premise managers should mark out seats to facilitate these arrangements.
- Tuition and enrichment centres
All centre-based tuition and enrichment classes will be suspended to reduce the intermingling of students from different schools and enhance the safety of students.
- Faith-based activities
- All religious services and congregations will be suspended.
- Places of worship (e.g. temples, mosques, churches) may remain open for private worship and essential rites, subject to group sizes of 10 persons or fewer at any one time.
- Events and mass gatherings
- All events and mass gatherings (e.g. conferences, exhibitions, festivals, concerts, sporting events, trade fairs) must be deferred or cancelled, regardless of size.
- This is a tightening of the previous requirement where all events and gatherings were to be limited to fewer than 250 participants.
- Social events and gatherings
- Avoid holding and participating in social events and gatherings (e.g. birthdays and weddings) involving more than 10 persons at any one time.
- For funerals and wakes, attendance should be limited as far as possible to family members only, and gatherings of 10 or fewer people at any one point.
- Employers are strongly advised to reduce close physical interactions amongst employees by facilitating telecommuting and tele-conferencing wherever possible.
- For jobs roles or functions where telecommuting is not feasible, employers should:
- Stagger working hours for both reporting and ending times with minimally three one-hourly blocks and no more than 50% of total employees reporting to work within each one-hour block. Where possible, reporting and ending times should not coincide with peak-hour travel, especially if employees require the use of public transport.
- Provide for physical spacing of at least a metre apart between workstations and in meeting rooms. If physical meetings are held, the number of attendees should be limited and the duration shortened.
- Defer non-critical events and scale down critical work events. For critical work events that cannot be deferred, employers must limit attendance to no more than 250 participants and ensure separation of at least a metre between participants. These include meals and mingling during the event.
- Events and gatherings
- Suspend all events and gatherings with 250 or more participants between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020.
- Events and gatherings with fewer than 250 participants must ensure at least a metre between participants and reducing mingling of participants such as during meal times.
- Events and gatherings must also –
- improve ventilation and advise participants to reduce contact with others;
- put in place temperature and health screening measures, and turn away persons who are unwell; and
- put in place measures to facilitate contact tracing if needed, such as obtaining contact details of participants.
- Public Venues
- Operators of venues which are accessible to the public are required to ensure separation of at least a metre between patrons.
- Queues should be kept fast-moving, by ensuring that all checkout counters are open, encouraging self-checkout to minimise contact with counter staff, demarcating queues to ensure patrons queue at least a metre apart from one another;
- F&B venues should maintain a distance of at least one metre between tables and seats. Where seats are fixed, operators should ensure alternate seats are marked out. Individuals and family members may continue to seat together, but a safe distance should be maintained between different groups; and
- Entertainment venues and attractions should ensure separation of at least a metre amongst patrons, by reducing operating capacity, installing floor markers at queuing areas, and adopting chequerboard or alternate seating.
- Operators of venues which are accessible to the public are required to ensure separation of at least a metre between patrons.
MOH will be promulgating Regulations under the Infectious Diseases Act to give legal force to the safe distancing measures, as well as to provide enhanced enforcement for breaches of the SHN. The penalty for an offence under the Regulations, including any SHN breach, would be a fine of less than $10,000 or imprisonment of less than six months or both. In addition, existing levers under the Infectious Diseases Act, including the temporary suspension of operations, may be used against persons and operators found to be non-compliant with the Regulations.
Business continuity plans
MOH stepped up its risk assessment from DORSCON Yellow to DORSCON Orange on 7 February 2020 and strongly advised employers should step up their Business Continuity Plans (BCPs) and clearly communicate to employees the measures that are being implemented as well as their roles and responsibilities. Employers and workplaces are urged to take the following measures:
- Allocate employees under alternate teams (e.g. Team A & Team B) who can be deployed according to different work schedules or at different work sites. Teams should be physically segregated to avoid the risk of infection between teams. Employers could also cross-train employees and establish covering arrangements to minimise disruptions.
- Work from home where feasible. Employers may wish to procure the necessary equipment and review their work processes to facilitate flexible work arrangements.
- Log access of visitors to their workplaces, with temperature screening where necessary. Staff who do temperature screening for visitors/customers should don masks. Visitors who are unwell are to reschedule their appointments and return another day when they are well.
- Increase the frequency of cleaning of commonly used areas.
- Employers should require employees to take their temperature at least twice daily and check for respiratory symptoms. Employees are encouraged to observe good personal hygiene.
- Employers should pay special attention to older and pregnant employees and employees with underlying medical conditions. Where operationally feasible, employers should reduce exposure of such employees to frontline work.
- Support employees with caregiving needs for family members by adopting flexible work arrangements such as working from home. If working from home is not possible, employers can consider allowing employees to use their leave entitlements, grant paid time-off, use advanced paid leave, no-pay leave or other mutually agreed arrangements.
- Employers should regularly check the MOM and MOH website for the latest information on the COVID-19 situation and review their BCP processes and measures to ensure that they remain relevant.
While we have taken care to provide a comprehensive summary of the key measures currently in place, the information set out above is not exhaustive and remains subject to further changes to the applicable measures.
We hope the above has been helpful. If there is anything that you wish to discuss with us, please feel free to reach out.