Singapore looks to restart economy with phased easing of virus curbs

Medical workers prepare to perform a nose swab on a migrant worker at a dormitory, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Singapore

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore will see three-quarters of its economy resume normal operations when curbs to fight the coronavirus are eased from June 2, although the relaxing of measures will likely see a rise in daily cases, its government said on Tuesday.

Businesses that operate in settings with lower transmission risks may resume activities, such as those in manufacturing, finance, insurance and wholesale trade.

A third of the workforce will resume on-site operations, while the remainder would work from home, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing told a news conference.

The plan is the first phase of lifting of Singapore's so-called "circuit breaker" restrictions to stem the spread of the coronavirus, which expire on June 1.

"This will be done in phases to reduce the risk of a second wave of cases of infections, as many countries have experienced, after they lifted their control measures," Health Minister Gan Kim Yong told the same briefing.

"As we begin to resume more activities, we do expect to see a rise in daily new cases."

Schools will also start reopening in the city-state from next month.

Singapore reported 451 new cases on Tuesday, taking the total to 28,794 infections - among the most in Asia, mainly due to outbreaks in cramped migrant-worker dormitories. It has managed to control the spread among locals outside of the dormitories.

Many restrictions will remain, however, including those on gatherings and socialising. Authorities will decide later on a second phase of easing, which could see dine-in restaurants and retail stores reopen.

The government wants to ease measures gradually until Singapore reaches a "new normal" where most activities can resume, but with limitations until an effective vaccine or treatment for COVID-19 is available.

The finance minister will next week announce more support for businesses unable to open on June 2.


(Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan; Editing by Martin Petty)