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Singapore further eases restrictions, more shops reopen after lockdown

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    Kyodo News

Singapore   /   Sat, June 20, 2020   /   11:19 am
Singapore further eases restrictions, more shops reopen after lockdown People eat at a table installed with plexiglass dividers at a food court in Singapore as the city state reopens the economy amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, June 19, 2020. (REUTERS/Edgar Su)

People in Singapore began dining out, and retail shops reopened for business Friday as the country continued to ease restrictive measures that had been imposed under a semi-lockdown to curb the spread of the new coronavirus more than two months ago.

However, precautionary measures are still being implemented, including the use of a "safe entry" app that records a person's identity, takes their temperature and logs the time they entered a shop or a building. The app is meant to allow for easier contact tracing in the case of infection.

"Safe distancing ambassadors," guides who advise the public on distancing requirements, were also seen at large malls.

The government decided to move to phase two of reopening, which sees the resumption of most activities after the number of COVID-19 infections showed signs of receding in recent weeks.

Small-group social gatherings of up to five people are allowed, while homes can also receive up to five visitors at any one time.

However, activities that involve large gatherings such as conferences, exhibitions, concerts, bars, nightclubs, karaoke outlets, cinemas, libraries and museums, as well as religious congregations, will remain banned for the time being.

The second phase is expected to last for months under Singapore's three-phase plan for reopening its economy.

The reopening came as a relief to many residents. Chua Boon Ann, 68, who is now retired, said he was just glad to be able to meet three of his close friends for breakfast at an open-air coffee shop near his home as they had done every day for years before the lockdown.

"We are very happy to meet our friends for breakfast again, like before. It was very tough (during the lockdown). I felt so bored at home," Chua said.

Read also: Indonesia tails Singapore in COVID-19 cases with another 1,000 plus added in one day

Around Singapore's financial and business district, the first day of the reopening was somewhat subdued. Restaurants were not crowded, and some retail shops remain closed.

The government is still asking companies to allow workers to telecommute, partly to avoid congesting Singapore's public transport system.

One gift shop at a commuter train station that reopened on Friday said business was poor, only about 20 percent of that before the virus broke out.

However, malls in the residential areas attracted big crowds, with people seen waiting in long lines to get into budget stores.

Singapore has one of the largest number of COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia, with 41,473 as of Thursday, but the death toll is one of the lowest in the world at 26.