More people return to the office, fewer temperature checks as S’pore further eases Covid-19 curbs

SINGAPORE – Lawyer Crystal Tan usually gets a seat when she boards the train on the North-South Line to the city at 8.30am, but on Thursday (Aug 19), most of the seats were taken.

Alighting at Raffles Place, Ms Tan, 32, said: “There was quite a significant number of people on the train today. Usually, there will be a lot of seats around, but today most of the seats were filled up.”

On Thursday, companies were allowed to bring more staff back to the office, with the easing of Covid-19 restrictions in Singapore.

Up to 50 per cent of employees are now allowed back to the office. This has not been the case since May 8, when firms switched largely to getting people to work from home in line with safe management measures.

Mr Ramadass Deenathayalu, 51, who works at Raffles Place, said his company prefers employees to work from home, but he enjoys working from the office.

“When we work at home, we unknowingly work longer hours. It’s not healthy and it’s bad for psychological health. We are away from social connections when we work from home. It’s better to go out and work with people,” said the manager in the software industry.

“I’m looking forward to have more human connections and interactions since more people are allowed to go back to office now.”

Across the island, people were walking into malls and buildings without temperature screening – a requirement that was lifted on Thursday.

But some places ST visited were still conducting such checks, saying they would phase it out in the days to come.

At Ang Mo Kio Hub and Junction 8, shoppers did not need to take their temperatures, with TraceTogether check-ins sufficient to allow entry.

But eight out of the 13 eateries that ST visited in the two malls were still conducting temperature screening.

Ms Janet Ong, 52, had her temperature screened before she could have breakfast at Toast Box in Ang Mo Kio Hub on Thursday morning.

She said it was good for eateries to screen temperatures as vaccinated individuals could still be infected.

“I take my children to dine out too and I want to make sure they are all safe from the virus,” said the sales assistant.

Commuters in a train during peak hour on Aug 19, 2021. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

A spokesman for Frasers Property Retail previously said all 14 malls it manages will stop conducting temperature screening for visitors from Aug 19, but staff will continue to be deployed to facilitate contact tracing.

ST understands that screeners at the 17 malls managed by Far East Organization will also be retained to ensure shoppers, employees and tenants comply with TraceTogether check-ins.

ST also visited Yio Chu Kang Sport Hall and the ActiveSG Gym nearby, both of which were still conducting temperature checks as well.

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A part-time ActiveSG staff member, who declined to be named, said staff members were informed that temperature checks would continue for now, but that they would be phased out in time to come.

Engineer Fong Chee Chun, 50, who was at the gym, said: “It’s not very difficult to take our temperature and doesn’t take up much time since it’s just a machine.

“I’m used to it already. It also feels safer to check everyone before they enter because we share the equipment.”

Over at the hospitals, visits to wards were allowed to resume on Thursday, but with vaccination-differentiated measures in place to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission.

Visitors who are fully vaccinated, or have recovered from Covid-19 with a valid pre-event test exemption notice, can enter wards without a pre-visit Covid-19 test.

Unvaccinated visitors have to show a negative Covid-19 test result to enter hospital wards. This can be an antigen rapid test (ART) or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test done within the last 24 hours.

Hospitals continue to enforce strict rules such as limiting visitor numbers and duration, as well as ensuring mask-wearing and safe distancing.

A spokesman for the National University Health System (NUHS) said that visitor management policy and guidelines have been updated in line with the Ministry of Health’s guidelines.

This is to protect patients, accompanying persons and caregivers, and to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission in hospitals, he said.

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NUHS oversees the National University Hospital, Ng Teng Fong General Hospital, Jurong Community Hospital and Alexandra Hospital.

“Hospital personnel are available to support visitors who require advice or assistance. We will also assist unvaccinated visitors with ART testing in exceptional and time-sensitive situations,” said the spokesman.

Meanwhile, local attractions such as the Singapore Zoo, Jurong Bird Park, River Safari and Night Safari have also made adjustments to comply with the latest guidelines.

Wildlife Reserves Singapore, which manages the four parks, said in a post on its website that group sizes are capped at five, with unvaccinated persons encouraged to stay in groups of up to two.

Shows at its parks will admit up to 50 guests, with a maximum of five people seated together, including infants, it added.

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