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Singapore: Legal Response to Covid-19

Singapore [sg]

Jaclyn Neo, Shirin Chua

From: Oxford Constitutions (http://oxcon.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved.date: 02 December 2022

General editors: Prof. Jeff King; Prof. Octavio Ferraz
Area editors: Prof. Tendayi Achiume; Prof. Alan Bogg; Dr. Natalie Byrom; Prof. Cathryn Costello; Prof. Nicola Countouris; Prof. Colleen Flood; Prof. Eva Pils; Prof. Nico Steytler; Dr. Silvia Suteu; Dr. Bryan Thomas; Dr. Michael Veale; Dr. Pedro A. Villarreal

© The several contributors 2021. Some rights reserved. This is an open access publication, available online and distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0), a copy of which is available at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/. Enquiries concerning use outside the scope of the licence terms should be sent to the Rights Department, Oxford University Press.

Preferred Citation: J Neo, S Chua, ‘United Kingdom: Legal Response to Covid-19’, in Jeff King and Octávio LM Ferraz et al (eds), The Oxford Compendium of National Legal Responses to Covid-19 (OUP 2021). doi: 10.1093/law-occ19/e30.013.30

Except where the text indicates the contrary, the law is as it stood on: 26 April 2021

Singapore was initially praised as the ‘gold standard’ in managing the outbreak of Covid-19, as the number of cases were kept very low through a trifold strategy of aggressive testing, rapid contact tracing, and isolation of confirmed cases and their close contacts. However, as the number of cases began to rise in March 2020, the government announced the closure of schools and most businesses and imposed movement restrictions—a suite of measures it called a ‘circuit breaker’. This increase was initially due to imported cases as Singapore encouraged its overseas citizens to return, but later to the rapid spread of Covid-19 in the crowded dormitories in which many of Singapore’s low-wage migrants live. The ‘circuit breaker’ was lifted on 2 June 2020 as daily new cases fell from over a thousand to around five hundred (out of a population of nearly six million), with a three-phased approach to reopening the city. As of 3 May 2021, daily new cases remained low. Most were imported cases which are immediately quarantined upon arrival in Singapore. However, the later months of 2021 saw a few successive new waves of locally-transmitted infections largely due to the high transmissibility of the Delta variant. From 22 July to 10 August 2020, in response to the first of these new waves of infections, Singapore reimposed some of the restrictive measures that it had during the ‘circuit breaker’, while accelerating its vaccination programme. By 15 September 2021, Singapore had reported its highest daily new case total in more than a year, ie 837 new cases. However, with 81% of the population having received both doses of Covid-19 vaccines and hospitalisation rates remaining relatively stable, the government has resisted the reimposition of restrictive measures other than—in the main—continuing social distancing and mandatory masking rules. In total, Singapore has seen approximately 73,000 cases of Covid-19, the vast majority of these being migrant workers in dormitories. With 58 deaths from Covid-19, translating into 1.02 deaths per 100,000 of the population, Singapore’s death rate has remained one of the lowest in the world.

I.  Constitutional Framework

1.  Singapore has a unitary form of parliamentary government, with a unicameral parliament. Its political system is a modified version of the British Westminster system, which it inherited from the former colonials. As in the former, there is a fusion of legislative and executive powers; the Prime Minister is the head of government but the President is the head of state. Previously a ceremonial position modelled after the British constitutional monarchy, the office of the President of Singapore was transformed from an appointed to an elected one in 1991.1 The elected President has certain discretionary powers, including as to the spending of financial reserves—these will be relevant to measures addressed in Part V below. This, coupled with a dominant political party controlling Parliament, has meant that there are few, if any, legal impediments to the Government’s legislative agenda. The Singapore Government is known to be highly efficient and tends to have a legalistic adherence to the Singapore Constitution.2 Unlike in the British system, it is the Constitution, and not Parliament, that is supreme. Constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds majority, which is easily satisfied by a ruling party that consistently holds a supermajority of seats in Parliament. That said, the Constitution took a backseat in the Government’s pandemic response. The only constitutional amendment made in relation to Covid-19 was to the requirements for parliamentary sittings. As explained in Part III.B below, the amendment authorized the conduct of separate but contemporaneous meetings among Members of Parliament for a parliamentary session where it is resolved that ‘it is or will be impossible, unsafe or inexpedient for Parliament to sit and meet in one place’. The authorization only applies for 6 months at a time and needs to be renewed each time.

2.  An island state with a population of 5.3 million, Singapore's response to the pandemic was swift and agile. It initially relied on an existing infectious diseases control law to manage the outbreak, but later, when widespread control measures were required, Parliament passed a new Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act (‘CTMA’) within a day – a record time – to empower the Ministry of Health to make control orders to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Responsibility was divided among the different ministries: besides the Minister of Health empowered to make movement control orders, the Minister of Finance was empowered to remit property taxes, the Minister for National Development empowered to extend time and cost-sharing in delayed construction contracts, and the Minister of Law empowered to oversee the general administration of other temporary measures including contract renegotiation and the resolution of contractual disputes.

3.  The extensive scope of the measures permitted under the new law, accepted in light of the political context, meant that it was not necessary for the government to even consider invoking emergency powers in order to expand its executive powers. A state of emergency could have been declared under Article 150 of the Singapore Constitution, which empowers the President, acting in accordance with the advice of the Cabinet, to issue a Proclamation of Emergency if satisfied that ‘a grave emergency exists whereby the security or economic life of Singapore is threatened’.3 With some limited exceptions, ordinary legislative processes and constitutional liberties are largely suspended in an emergency. The President is empowered to promulgate ordinances having the force of law until Parliament convenes. Parliament may ‘make laws with respect to any matter’ if it appears to be ‘required by reason of the emergency’ without presidential assent, which is ordinarily required. The Proclamation is valid for a period of six months. Any ordinances and laws made during the period of emergency shall cease to have effect after the expiration of the period unless it was a law that could have been validly made without the Proclamation. With the new law, a state of emergency was not required.

II.  Applicable Legal Framework

A.  Constitutional and international law

4.  As mentioned, Singapore did not invoke Article 150 of the Constitution to declare a state of emergency in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Instead, it relied on a ‘legislative approach’, using an ordinary statute to expand its ministerial powers to manage the pandemic, including issuing movement control measures.4 While Singapore regularly referenced data and policy statements from the World Health Organization (WHO), its pandemic response was largely driven by domestic concerns with no reference to international treaty obligations.

5.  Singapore is party to four human rights conventions. These are the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CPD), and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) as well as its Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict. It is a member of the World Trade Organization and party to several of its plurilateral agreements,5 and also party to a suite of international investment agreements6 and free trade agreements.7 To our knowledge, Singapore has not invoked derogations under any international conventions to which it is party.

6.  In any case, as Singapore adheres to a dualist system, its treaty obligations are not part of Singapore law unless implemented in the form of legislation, and none of the aforementioned treaties have been implemented by legislation. Note however that this is subject to two nuances. First, courts apply the presumption that Parliament intends to adhere to international law and international comity. Singapore courts will usually seek to construe a statute in line with such treaty obligations. Second, customary international law ‘can be recognised and declared to be part of the domestic law by the courts’, subject to domestic legislation and the Constitution.

7.  WHO data and policy statements were routinely cited to justify executive action to address Covid-19. For example, the Ministry of Health cited the WHO’s declaration of Covid-19 to be a public health emergency of international concern (‘PHEIC’) as its basis for expanding precautionary border measures the very next day.8 It also justified its change in guidance on mask-wearing on the basis of evolving scientific advice from the WHO.9 In addition, the Government referred to the findings of the WHO’s Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety to assure the public as to the safety of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine,10 and to WHO guidance to prioritise the vaccination of population sub-groups most at-risk.11

B.  Statutory provisions

8.  Singapore’s initial response was premised upon two existing statutes—the Immigration Act to deal with travel restrictions (see Part IV.A.1 below) and the Infectious Diseases Act.12

9.  The 1976 Infectious Diseases Act had been strengthened and expanded in 2003—in two rapid rounds of amendments—to deal with the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The first set of amendments consolidated within the Ministry of Health the powers to investigate, prevent, and contain outbreaks of infectious disease. The second set of amendments—passed the very next month in April 2003—widened the scope of quarantine from hospitals and other ‘suitable’ locations to include ‘home quarantine’, allowed the Ministry of Health to restrict the entry of persons and goods into public or private premises, and prescribed punishments for anyone who knew or suspected they were suffering from an infectious disease while being in public and exposing others. While some parliamentarians acknowledged the ‘draconian’ nature of the second set of amendments, they supported them as necessary to address the rapidly-evolving public health crisis. In particular, members of the opposition parties then represented in Parliament expressed their support for the amendments, albeit with one member cautioning against ‘giv[ing] the impression that the occurrence of SARS has been taken advantage of by the Government to cloak itself with more powers’.13These opposition Members of Parliament also referred to the importance of public education as well as transparency in information-sharing by the Government in building public trust and confidence. Indeed, some analysis has since indicated that public receptiveness to the ‘draconian’ measures enacted under the Infectious Diseases Act was enhanced to a large extent by ‘moral suasion’ and close communication between the government and the public, as well as livelihood support for those required to bear the brunt of restrictive measures.

10.  As early as February 2020, individuals had been charged under the Infectious Diseases Act for giving false information to officials from the Ministry of Health and obstructing the conduct of contact tracing.14As the number of Covid-19 cases rose in March 2020, the government promulgated two new sets of regulations under the Infectious Diseases Act in order to impose more calibrated orders for close contacts of persons diagnosed with Covid-19. These are set out in Part II.C below.

11.  However, when it became clear that community-wide movement control and closures were necessary to address the spread of Covid-19, Parliament passed the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act (‘CTMA’), which, having been expedited under a Certificate of Urgency signed by the President, was introduced, debated, and passed on the same day (7 April 2020).15

12.  The provisions of the CTMA are wide-ranging.16 In the private law realm, the CTMA introduced temporary measures granting relief to financially distressed individuals and businesses, and also addressed other private law aspects of the crisis, including by amending other statutes such as the Bankruptcy Act and the Companies Act. In the public law realm, the CTMA (i) granted powers to the Minister of Health to enact control orders if satisfied that ‘the incidence and transmission of COVID-19 in the community in Singapore constitutes a serious threat to public health’ and the control order is ‘necessary or expedient’ to supplement other legislation, particularly the Infectious Diseases Act, and (ii) provides, notwithstanding existing legislation, for court proceedings to be conducted using remote conferencing technology.17

13.  The CTMA grants the executive, particularly the Minister for Health, sweeping powers to enact control orders. The Minister can issue orders requiring people to not leave a specified place, restrict movement of or contact between people, require premises or facilities to be closed or be subject to limited access, restrict the time, manner, or extent for the carrying out of any business, undertaking, or work, and prohibit or restrict the conduct of or participation in any event or gathering.18 In alignment with the Infectious Diseases Act, the penalties for violation were defined as fines of up to SGD $10,000 or imprisonment for up to six months or both, doubled for second or subsequent offences.19

14.  However, these powers are temporally limited by the CTMA. Any power to extend this period lies with Parliament—by amending the CTMA—and not the Health Minister alone. Initially, CTMA provided that its provisions granting these powers would remain in force until 7 April 2021, one year from the entry into force of the relevant provisions.20 It bears noting that this time limit was twice as long as the six months’ validity that Singapore’s constitution grants to Proclamations of Emergency.21 By an amendment taking effect on 1 March 2021 and voted for unanimously in Parliament,22 these powers are now in force until the end of 8 April 2022.23

15.  It bears noting that the enactment of the CTMA did not attract any dissent from the (then) only opposition party in Parliament. At the time the CTMA was passed, there were only six opposition members, belonging to the same party, out of a total of 89 parliamentarians. All the elected opposition members, as well as the non-elected members,24 voted for the CTMA without proposing any amendments.25 This consensus as to the need for such pandemic management measures is indicative. Even though these members of parliament do not have the numbers to stop laws from passing, their support may serve as an indicator of community support. Opposition parliamentarians had, for instance, strongly objected to and voted against the passing of some controversial laws, such as the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act 2019 (‘POFMA’).26 They did not do so here. Similarly, even though the opposition voted for the bill extending the validity of the Health Minister’s powers under the CTMA (see paragraph 14 above), they also extensively questioned the government, during the debates over the bill, on its powers of data collection in light of the ‘TraceTogether’ saga (see below).

16.  As of April 2021, a total of 28 subsidiary regulations were introduced under the CTMA. These pertain to a broad range of issues, elaborated upon below. The most impactful regulation is the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations (‘Control Order Regulations’), promulgated by the Ministry of Health on the very same day as its parent statute (7 April 2020), as they restrict the freedom of movement of persons in the country. The public health measures adopted under the Control Order Regulations, and other subsidiary legislation under the CTMA, are set out in detail in Part III.C and Part IV below.

17.  As for other legislative acts, Parliament passed the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures for Solemnization and Registration of Marriages) Act 2020 on 5 May 2020.27 Like the CTMA, this Bill was also expedited under a Certificate of Urgency; it was thus presented, debated, and passed in two days.28 The Act permits the use of remote communication technology to fulfil the requirement of appearance at marriages notwithstanding provisions in pre-existing legislation.

18.  Finally, Parliament passed the Parliamentary Elections (COVID-19 Special Arrangements) Act to facilitate general elections during the pandemic, as explained at Part III.D below.

19.  While characterising Covid-19 as the crisis of a generation,29 the Singapore Government did not at any point in time refer to it as an emergency, or even a public health emergency. This presumably is because an emergency is a legal term provided for in the Singapore constitution and has never been invoked by the post-independence government. Both emergencies declared in 1948 and 1963 were during British colonial rule in response to internal and external armed violence respectively.30 Declaring an emergency would result in the suspension of parts of the constitution which could set a dangerous precedent. Interestingly, however, unlike in some other jurisdictions, the Constitution is clear that even when there is a proclamation of emergency, parliament remains the primary legislative institution except for a narrow period of time. Under Article 150(2) of the Constitution, ‘[i]f a Proclamation of Emergency is issued when Parliament is not sitting, the President shall summon Parliament as soon as practicable, and may, until Parliament is sitting, promulgate ordinances having the force of law, if satisfied that immediate action is required.’ Any Proclamation of Emergency will also have to be presented to Parliament for affirmation or annulment.31

20.  Overall, apart from some pockets of discontent, there has not been widespread vocal opposition in Singapore to the CTMA or to the control orders issued by the Health Minister. The question of why this is so is a complex one that falls beyond the scope of this paper. As a starting point, it would be too simplistic to attribute the relative absence of opposition to ‘authoritarianism’.32 Some commentators have postulated that ‘communitarian’ value systems have helped certain countries, including Singapore, perform better at handling the Covid-19 pandemic, including due to general social acceptance of wide-ranging public health measures.33 In particular, Lee has argued that Singapore’s response to Covid-19 reflects a ‘responsive communitarian’ model—characterised not just by shared values, norms, and culture, but also a high level of responsiveness.34

C.  Executive rule-making powers

21.  Executive rule-making powers—particularly subsidiary legislation—played a primary role in providing the rules for dealing with the Covid-19 crisis.

22.  The Control Order Regulations (referred to in Part II.B above) were key to establishing three forms of restrictions: first, the restriction of movement outside one’s ordinary place of residence; secondly, the prohibition of gatherings between persons living outside one’s household; lastly, the criminalization of certain acts in violation of social distancing requirements. These public health measures are explained in further detail in Part IV below. They will cease to be valid once the relevant provisions in the CTMA expire; currently, unless Parliament amends the CTMA, this will happen after 8 April 2022.

23.  Prior to the passage of the CTMA, the Minister for Health issued two sets of subsidiary legislation under the Infectious Diseases Act.35 Unlike regulations under the CTMA, these have no automatic expiry date. The Infectious Diseases (COVID-19 – Stay Orders) Regulations 2020 (‘SHN Regulations’) provides that anyone issued with a Stay-Home Notice (‘SHN’) must not leave their place of accommodation for the duration specified in the Notice.36 The Infectious Diseases (Measures to Prevent Spread of COVID-19) Regulations 2020 (‘Safe Distancing Regulations’) imposed the first physical distancing requirements in response to Covid-19, which took effect between 27 March 2020 and 30 April 2020, including:

  1. (a)  Prohibiting certain events which tend to involve a high density of persons, including sports events in public places, exhibitions, and trade fairs in public places, as well as the provision of services at nightclubs and discotheques;

  2. (b)  Prohibiting more than ten persons from attending any event held not in the ‘ordinary course of business at a workplace or providing education in an educational institution’;

  3. (c)  Imposing certain safety management requirements on events, including taking the temperatures and contact details of attendees so as to facilitate contact tracing.

  4. (d)  Imposing a duty on owners and occupiers of shopping malls and places of attraction to take reasonable steps to comply with certain safe distancing measures.37

A fine of up to SGD $10,000 or imprisonment of up to six months or both were defined as the penalty for offences under both the SHN Regulations and the Safe Distancing Regulations.

24.  Another significant piece of subsidiary legislation issued by the Ministry of Health is the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Foreign Employee Dormitories – Control Order) Regulations 2020 (‘Foreign Employee Dormitories Regulations’).38 These regulations impose specific rules for the management of Covid-19 in the dormitories in which the vast majority of Singapore’s low-wage migrant workers in the construction and marine shipyard sectors live. Until these regulations were passed, migrant worker dormitories were governed under the Control Order Regulations. The rules pertaining to migrant workers’ dormitories—and their evolution—will be considered more fully in Part VI below.

25.  The Control Order Regulations and the Foreign Employee Dormitories Regulations are among the more than twenty regulations that have thus far been promulgated under the CTMA. Four of these regulations extend or otherwise modify the time periods within which various sections of the CTMA remain in force. The remaining 24 regulations created rules applicable to an extremely broad range of issues, including alternative meeting venues for companies, charities, registered societies, and trade unions, alternative venues for meetings pursuant to Singapore’s bankruptcy and corporate insolvency regimes, commercial rent relief, relief from contractual performance, special temporary rules in relation to construction contracts, temporary measures for conducting collective sales of property, property tax remission, as well as safe management measures for live performances and media conferences.39 These regulations were respectively promulgated by the Minister for Law, the Minister for National Development, the Minister for Finance, and the Minister for Health, acting pursuant to powers accorded to them under the relevant provisions of the CTMA.

26.  The executive also promulgated a range of subsidiary legislation under other Acts to address various aspects of the Government’s Covid-19 response. The Minister for Health passed the Biological Agents and Toxins (COVID-19 Research Laboratory — Exemption) Regulations 2020 on 2 April 2020 to exempt laboratories conducting research in relation to Covid-19 from certain requirements under the Biological Agents and Toxins Act.40 The Minister for Finance passed the Customs (Duties) (COVID-19 — Exemption) Order 2020 on 15 April 2020 to facilitate the importation of alcoholic products for the purpose of manufacturing hand sanitisers.41 The Ministry of Health passed the Infectious Diseases (COVID-19 Vaccination) Regulations 2021 on 17 January 2021, under the Infectious Diseases Act, to facilitate Singapore’s vaccination programme.42 The Prime Minister passed the Parliamentary Elections (COVID-19 Special Arrangements) Regulations 2020 on 1 July 2020, under the Parliamentary Elections Act, to specify the rules governing the General Election of 2020 (see Part III.D below).43

27.  Another key exercise of executive power was the Government’s establishment of the Multi-Ministry Taskforce. This was done in January 2020 to coordinate Singapore’s response to the pandemic, the seriousness of which called for a ‘whole-of-government, even whole-of-Singapore, response’.44 The Taskforce is chaired by the Minister for Health and the Minister for National Development and comprises several Ministers across all the key sectors of government. The Deputy Prime Minister is a consultant to the Taskforce.45 The exercise of the Taskforce’s rule-making powers will be demonstrated in Part IV below.

28.  The Government also established a Singapore-Malaysia Joint Working Group, co-chaired by Singapore’s Senior Minister of State for Transport and Health and Malaysia’s Deputy Minister for Health, to coordinate measures to tackle the pandemic, given the high volume of travel between the two neighbouring countries.46 These include aligning entry screening protocols and reciprocal arrangements for the transfer of symptomatic travellers detected during entry screening back across land and sea checkpoints.

29.  As explained in Parts III.C and III.D below, these measures have not been challenged in court. There has been only one reported decision in relation to government measures in relation to the pandemic, namely regarding to the holding of general elections.

D.  Guidance

30.  Official guidance to the public and public authorities is gathered on several websites, published by the Government. The primary sources are the general website of the Singapore Government (www.gov.sg) and the website of the Ministry of Health, which also hosts press releases made by the Multi-Ministry Taskforce. A range of other government websites host advisories relevant to their respective sectors, including the Ministry of Manpower, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

31.  The website of the Ministry of Health also consolidates all relevant Covid-19 press releases, briefings, and advisories from different government departments on its website, rendering all such information easily accessible from a single source.47

32.  To our knowledge, in its response to the pandemic, the government has not relied on directions or non-statutory guidance that diverged from law. The one exception may be the crisis that erupted in relation to the government-developed contact tracing app named ‘TraceTogether’, insofar as the Government’s assurances (replicated in the privacy statement of the app) that data collected would only be used for contact tracing purposes may constitute ‘official guidance’. As it turned out, these assurances diverged from the fact that the app continued to be subject to the generally applicable Criminal Procedure Code, and its data could therefore be used in criminal investigations.

III.  Institutions and Oversight

A.  The role of legislatures in supervising the executive

33.  Consistent with a Westminster parliamentary system, the executive in Singapore is generally subject to legislative oversight—albeit with constitutional rather than parliamentary supremacy. Although this has not been invoked since Singapore’s independence, Parliament may adopt a vote of no confidence in the Government. Under Article 26 of the Constitution, the President shall declare the office of the Prime Minister vacant if they are satisfied, acting in their discretion, that the Prime Minister has ceased to command the confidence of the majority.

34.  More specifically, the broad powers of the Minister for Health under the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act (‘CTMA’), are subject to legislative control in several ways. First, Parliament retains oversight of all control orders. Control orders and their amendments come into force upon publication in the government Gazette by the Minister. However, all published control orders and amendments must be presented to Parliament ‘as soon as possible after publication in the Gazette’.48 Parliament may thus annul any control order, amendment, or any part thereof by passing a resolution, albeit without affecting anything previously done under that control order or part thereof.49 These control orders and amendments are presented to Parliament as ‘papers’ under Standing Order 31 of the Standing Orders of Parliament which governs, among other things, papers ‘which [are] required by law to be presented to or laid before Parliament’. 50 It is up to members of parliament to file motions to annul or amend any control order presented to them, as governed by the rules in the Constitution and the Standing Orders of Parliament on debates and voting.51 In other words, this is akin to the negative procedure in the United Kingdom Parliament—except without the corresponding time limit.52 Parliament has not so far annulled or amended any control orders presented to them.

35.  Second, as explained above, these powers expire on 8 May 2022 (originally 7 April 2021) unless Parliament amends the CTMA.

B.  The functioning of the legislature where its ordinary business is disrupted

36.  Parliament has continued to sit as usual throughout the pandemic. It amended the Constitution to create a mechanism for meetings to take place with Members in different places but in contemporaneous communication—arguably procedurally extraordinary but substantively limited. Members of Parliament, including those in the Opposition, voted unanimously for the amendments.53

37.  The Constitutional Amendment Bill provided that this mechanism would be active for six months after it came into force (on 5 May 2020), and that it can be activated in the future for six months at a time if Members consider that it is impossible, unsafe, or inexpedient for Parliament to meet in one place.54

38.  The mechanism was used for the first time at the Opening of Parliament following the July 2020 parliamentary elections (see Part III.D below),55 but Parliament has otherwise, thus far, sat with all Members in the same location, with physical distancing measures.56 Since the six-month mark has passed, Parliament will have to reactivate the mechanism should it be required in the future.

C.  Role of and access to courts

39.  The Singapore courts have the power to supervise legislative and executive powers for consistency with the Constitution. This arises from their judicial power, constitutionally vested under Article 93 of the Constitution.57 In addition, the courts also have the power and duty to declare invalid any exercise of executive power exceeding its legal limits.

40.  Since Singapore did not declare an emergency, the usual constitutional rights such as the freedom of movement (Article 13), speech, assembly, and association (Article 14), and religion (Article 15) remain in force. Courts may thus still review the consistency of the CTMA and the Control Order Regulations, as well as any other legislative or executive action, with those rights.58 However, as these rights are either explicitly formulated as qualified rights or interpreted by courts as such, the strength of any constitutional challenges on the basis of violation of constitutional rights would be rather limited. In terms of explicitly identified limitations, public health is a permissible ground of restriction in relation to freedom of movement and religion under Articles 13(2) and 15(4) of the Constitution respectively. While Article 14 contains no express public health exception, the ‘security of Singapore’ or ‘public order’ are likely to be relevant.59

41.  It remains to be seen how the courts will interpret section 35(8) CTMA, which provides that enforcement officers bear no legal liability so long as they act in ‘good faith and with reasonable care’, should the issue arise. This is a qualified immunity clause and not a clause ousting judicial review.60 It bears noting that the CTMA similarly provides that ‘assessors’—who exercise prescribed duties under the CTMA in assessing cases of inability to perform certain contracts—bear no liability in relation to duties carried out in good faith and with reasonable care.61 During the parliamentary debates over the CTMA, the Minister for Law clarified that the rules of natural justice and judicial review remedies apply to the assessors’ discharge of their functions.62 This supports the case that the same applies to the enforcement officer empowered to enforce compliance with public health measures.

42.  Insofar as control orders themselves may be subject to judicial review—as distinct from the enforcement of those orders in individual cases—the terms ‘satisfied’ and ‘necessary or expedient’ under section 34 CTMA grant a wide discretion to the Health Minister to issue control orders, thereby potentially limiting the scope of the court’s review.63

43.  In practice, there has been only one reported decision in relation to government measures in relation to the pandemic (see Part III.D below).

44.  The legislature and judiciary cooperated to ensure that access to the courts was not suspended as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The CTMA provided for remote hearings, ensuring that the administration of justice did not grind to a halt while the ‘circuit breaker’ was in force.64 Specifically, the CTMA provides that a court may order a witness or accused person to give evidence by live video or television link if it is satisfied that (i) there are sufficient administrative and technical facilities to do so; and (ii) it is in the interests of justice to do so.65 Additionally, in the case of a witness (but not an expert witness), both parties must consent to this. Further, a court cannot make an order requiring remote testimony if it would be ‘inconsistent with the duty of the court to ensure that the proceedings are conducted fairly to the parties’ (emphasis added).66 Justice thus remains the overriding factor. Section 28(11) CTMA expressly preserves the rules against the unauthorised recording of court proceedings.

45.  Through a series of Registrars’ Circulars, the courts adjourned all hearings, save for ‘essential and urgent matters’, between 7 April to 4 May 2020, a period which was then extended to 1 June 2020 when the ‘circuit breaker’ was extended.67 In these Circulars, the Supreme Court, the State Courts, and the Family Justice Courts all issued guidance as to what matters were ‘essential and urgent’ for their purposes. They also listed specific categories of ‘essential and urgent’ matters before them, including, applications for review of detention in criminal matters, applications for bail and bail review, applications for personal protection orders, matters involving child custody or access issues, appeals under the Protection from Harassment Act if there are issues of personal safety involved, and applications for the judicial sale of a vessel where the safety of the crew is a concern. At the same time, it allowed litigants to request the hearing of matters not listed, so long as accompanied by an explanation of why the matter was essential and urgent. To this end, the Supreme Court issued guidance on how the courts would assess whether such a matter was essential and urgent.68 Thus, the judiciary struck a balance between clarity and flexibility in relation to its power to dispense justice during the ‘circuit breaker’. Significantly, applications for judicial review, including ‘in relation to implementation of Covid-19 measures’, were listed as ‘essential and urgent’.69

46.  As of 11 January 2021, the Court of Appeal had lost 19.5 hearing days and the High Court had lost 694 hearing days due to the vacation of hearings during the ‘circuit breaker’. The Family Justice Courts had lost an estimated 588 hearings days. The State Courts had lost 2,033 hearing days. However, nearly all matters had since been re-fixed for hearing, and the Chief Justice was able to report that many of these had already been substantively disposed of. 70

47.  To our knowledge, there is as yet no publicly available tally as to how many civil and criminal proceedings have been held virtually, but the experience of at least one High Court trial has been documented for the benefit of lawyers and other parties who may take part in online proceedings.71 Neither have there been, to our knowledge, any studies examining the existence of a digital divide between users having skills in online usage and those who do not.

48.  We have not seen any suggestion that legal action was considered a risk to health and hence a barrier to access to justice as a result of the pandemic. As a result of the judiciary’s swift transition to video-conferencing and the relative brevity of the period during which all but ‘essential and urgent’ matters were suspended, it is unlikely that this was the case.

D.  Elections

49.  In the absence of a Proclamation of Emergency, Singapore was constitutionally required to hold a general election before 14 April 2021. It organised general elections on 10 July 2020, some nine months before the term of the incumbent Parliament expired.

50.  Certain sections of society and leaders of opposition parties criticised this as opportunistic, calling for general elections to be delayed in light of the pandemic.72 However, in calling the election, the Prime Minister specifically highlighted the need to seek a new mandate to respond to Covid-19 and its consequences.73 The Prime Minister took the position that elections should go ahead because he was satisfied that ‘voters can vote safely, and political parties can campaign effectively.’74 An urgent constitutional challenge arguing that calling the election in the middle of a pandemic was contrary to the right to vote was dismissed ex tempore by Singapore’s highest court.75

51.  Measures were taken to address limitations arising from Covid-19. The Parliamentary Elections (COVID-19 Special Arrangements) Act was passed to allow political candidates, if ill, to file nomination papers electronically, and to allow voters subject to control orders to vote at facilities outside their electoral divisions.76 The Parliamentary Elections (COVID-19 Special Arrangements) Regulations 2020 was passed shortly after to elaborate upon these rules. These measures have limited temporal remit: ‘election’ is defined in the Act as ‘an election … held on or before 14 April 2021’.

52.  Under these rules, voters on SHN could only vote between 7–8pm, a special hour dedicated to such voters to minimise exposure to other voters, candidates, and election officials.77 Other voters were cautioned to avoid voting at that hour. Special polling stations were also established for voters serving their SHN at dedicated facilities. To ensure that they were spread out across polling hours, voters were allotted a recommended slot. An app was released that allowed voters to check the crowd density at their assigned polling stations before setting off to vote.78 At polling stations, voters were screened and were required to register their attendance for contact tracing purposes. Voters were required to wear a mask and election officials were required to don appropriate gear. Cleaners were appointed to disinfect ‘common touch-points’ at least once every half hour.79

53.  Various measures were also put in place in relation to political campaigning. Physical rallies, previously the main form of political campaigning, were prohibited. Alternatives were facilitated for political parties, including by according them additional airtime on national TV and providing venues for candidates to use for live streaming at specific timeslots throughout the campaign period.80 Candidates were still allowed to do walkabout and door-to-door campaigns as long as the group did not exceed five persons.

54.  The special measures led to unusually long queues at polling stations on Polling Day, leading to some unhappiness among voters81 and resulting in an apology from the Elections Department.82 Nevertheless, the claim that the elections could be organized safely and that political parties could still campaign effectively proved largely correct.83 There is no indication that the election exacerbated the spread of the virus.

55.  The 2020 election is widely seen as a watershed election, with the largest opposition party winning 10 seats in Parliament, the highest number won by an opposition party in Singapore’s post-Independence history.84 This prompted the establishment of a formal office of the Leader of the Opposition, heralding an even more robust role for the opposition going forward.85 There was some handwringing within the incumbent party, which won 61.2% of the vote—a solid victory by any global standard, but which represented a nearly 9% drop from its share in the last election (in 2015), and just slightly above its record low of 60.1% (in 2011). 86

56.  The prohibition on physical rallies and thus the shift to ‘internet elections’ may also have played a role in increasing the competitiveness of Singapore’s party system.87

57.  In reflecting on the results, the Prime Minister-elect was clear that Covid-19 had played a significant role. According to him, the ‘results reflect the pain and uncertainty that Singaporeans feel in this crisis, the loss of income, the anxiety about jobs, the disruption caused by the circuit breaker and the safe distancing restrictions’.88 Further study is needed on exactly how and to what extent Covid-19 affected the election outcome, but preliminary data from March 2020 suggests that it was likely a key election issue.89 This data indicated that 93 per cent of Singaporean respondents felt that the Government had kept the public informed with accurate information about the coronavirus, and 34 per cent of the respondents were ‘surprised’ by how poorly prepared Singapore was. Overall, 41 per cent of Singaporeans rated their leaders highly in relation to their response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

58.  The preceding analysis suggests that, despite the low rate of resort to judicial intervention and the relatively ‘thin’ safeguards in the CTMA, which itself was premised mainly on formal rule of law principles rather than strong substantive limits,90 the ballot box exercises relatively strong oversight over the Singapore Government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. It is clear that the Government deemed it politically necessary to regularly communicate and justify to the public the measures adopted to arrest the spread of Covid-19. At the highest political level, the Prime Minister addressed the population (in English, Mandarin, and Malay) at nearly every major stage of the development of the public health situation and evolution of government policy. The Multi-Ministry Taskforce gave regular press briefings. The government also set up a WhatsApp channel (with currently over a million subscribers) and a Telegram channel (with currently over 300,000 subscribers) to send updates directly to members of the public, including daily details of new, discharged, critical, and recovering Covid-19 cases.

E.  Scientific advice

59.  Under the Infectious Diseases Act, it is the Director of Medical Services, a medical professional who is an officer of the Ministry of Health, who exercises the broad powers to quarantine persons or obtain personal data in order to control an outbreak of infectious diseases. While there is otherwise no legally defined role for scientific advice in the Government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government has relied heavily on scientific advice in both formulating and justifying its measures.

60.  The Multi-Ministry Taskforce (explained in Part II.C above), is supported by medical professionals and takes guidance from medical and research experts led by the Chief Health Scientist, and including the Director of Medical Services.91 The Chief Health Scientist is an officer of the Ministry of Health, whose main role is to set the research agenda and to work closely with researchers across institutions in Singapore to address high-priority public health and clinical needs.92 Both the Chief Health Scientist and the Director of Medical Services attend the press conferences of the Multi-Ministry Taskforce and appear in the media to explain the scientific aspects of Covid-19 and the Government’s response.93 The substance of these press conferences are then largely reproduced, in condensed form, in near-daily press releases on the website of the Ministry of Health.

61.  While the Chief Health Scientist and the Director of Medical Services are not independent of the Government, the Multi-Ministry Taskforce has frequently relied upon experts from both public and private institutions to explain the scientific and medical aspects of Covid-19 and government policy to the public. The Ministry of Health also convened an Expert Committee on Covid-19 Vaccination, comprising experts from both the public and private sectors, to make recommendations to the Government on Singapore’s vaccination strategy, including on ensuring the safe and effective use of Covid-19 vaccines in Singapore’s population groups.94 The Government accepted the Expert Committee’s recommendations in full in December 2020 and began implementing Singapore’s vaccination plan on this basis.95

F.  Freedom of the press and freedom of information

62.  Freedom of the press and information in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic in Singapore reflects two elements of its constitutional culture: the emphasis on political honesty and integrity and the use of law to enforce fair and accurate reporting and comment.96

63.  Section 23(1) of the Interpretation Act requires all subsidiary legislation to be published in the Government Gazette as a means of bringing it to the knowledge of the public, unless the parent statute provides otherwise.97 In the case of the CTMA, Parliament went beyond this minimum standard, requiring the Ministry of Health to publish every control order, and any amendment thereto, ‘so as to bring it to the notice of all persons who may be affected by the control order’.98 The Ministry of Health has duly published the full text of the Control Order Regulations and all its amendments on its website.

64.  This transparency has been complemented by the efforts undertaken by the Government to regularly communicate, in various forms and at various levels, the details of the pandemic situation in Singapore and measures taken to address it. The government has also taken pains to clarify and rebut, on official channels, misinformation and rumours, as well as to urge the public to not share unsubstantiated information.99

65.  Singapore’s English-language broadsheet, The Straits Times, lifted its online paywall vis-à-vis all Covid-19-related news,100 while other local mainstream news outlets like TODAY and Channel NewsAsia are freely available. The Prime Minister credited Singapore’s initial successes in managing the pandemic to the people’s trust in both the Government and the mainstream media, and their appreciation that the Government had gone to ‘enormous lengths to be transparent’.101

66.  One major issue that the Singapore Government has had to face, as in other places, has been the proliferation and dissemination of fake news relating to Covid-19. A study released in May 2020 showed that six in ten participants had received fake news about Covid-19 on social media. The study also showed that the most prevalent channels used to share Covid-19 information are messaging platforms, which include WhatsApp, Telegram, and Facebook Messenger.102 The Government issued advisories reminding the public of the need for vigilance and urging them to not forward or circulate unsubstantiated information received over WhatsApp or other online platforms.103

67.  In addition, there are several existing laws that empower the government to swiftly deal with some of this misinformation. The Minister for Manpower threatened defamation suits against two men who made allegations of corruption concerning tenders for the development of emergency housing facilities.104 At least one person was charged under the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act for spreading false information urging panic buying, even though the message had been posted for only 15 minutes in a private Facebook group.105 The Government has also actively utilised the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act 2019 (‘POFMA’).106 Passed in 2019, ie before the Covid-19 outbreak, POFMA confers wide discretion on the executive to take various escalating actions to correct falsehoods in the ‘public interest’, as defined under section 4 POFMA. During the pandemic, the Government issued directions under POFMA to correct false statements made on various Facebook pages, regarding a range of issues such as the availability of face masks, contact tracing capabilities, the reporting of Covid-19 cases, and allegations that the Education Minister was responsible for the spread of Covid-19 among schoolchildren and teachers.107 These Facebook pages were later subject to Disabling Orders under POFMA.108 Most recently, the Ministry of Health issued correction orders against the founder of an opposition party in relation to Facebook posts suggesting that the Covid-19 vaccines had a ‘clear and causal link with heart attack’.109

68.  These laws could be said to impinge upon freedom of speech and expression. However, they have been justified as necessary to protect public order, which is an explicitly provided limitation to the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech and expression. Under Article 14(2)(a) of the Constitution, Parliament may by law impose ‘such restrictions as it considers necessary or expedient in the interest of the … public order’, inter alia. While the Court of Appeal recently affirmed that the limitations provided under the Constitution do not grant Parliament ‘carte blanche to pass any law which it deems (subjectively) necessary or expedient in the interests of public order’,110 the courts’ role in reviewing the permissibility of restricting legislation remains limited. This is because, as the Court of Appeal reasons, ‘the Constitution vests the primary decision-making power regarding whether a derogation from the right is necessary or expedient on Parliament.’111 Accordingly, the Court’s review is merely to ascertain whether Parliament could have objectively determined that the statutory derogation is necessary or expedient in the interests of public order.112

69.  Notably, public health is not an explicit derogation permitted under the Singapore Constitution. However, the level of misinformation and rapid spread of such information relating to Covid-19 have bolstered arguments that restricting the free flow of information, especially falsehoods, is critical for public health and, to some extent, public order. 113

G.  Ombuds and oversight bodies

70.  While there have been calls from several quarters over the years—beginning with the recommendations of a Constitutional Commission in 1966 and then revisited from time to time by various politicians—to establish an ombudsperson,114 most recently in November 2020 by the main opposition party in Parliament,115 Singapore currently has neither an Ombudsperson nor any special oversight bodies.

IV.  Public Health Measures, Enforcement and Compliance

A.  Public health measures

71.  The public health measures adopted in Singapore have proceeded in various phases since the outbreak of Covid-19. Prior to April 2020, Singapore’s measures were largely confined to border control measures and intensive testing, contact tracing, and isolation of Covid-19 cases and their close contacts. Under the ‘circuit breaker’, Singapore adopted much more restrictive measures. The ‘circuit breaker’ measures were then lifted in a phased manner. Phase One of reopening began on 2 June 2020, Phase Two on 19 June 2020, and Phase Three—which is still in force today—on 28 December 2020.

72.  These phases were implemented largely by amending the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations (‘Control Order Regulations’) as relevant at each stage. The prescription of public health measures primarily through subsidiary legislation allowed the Government to be nimble and modify such measures quickly as required. For example, the Control Order Regulations were amended twice on 15 April 2020.116

73.  Under Phase Three, most restrictions on movement have been lifted and most businesses and premises have reopened, but contact tracing, social distancing requirements, and the compulsory use of masks remain in place. Most recently, by another set of amendments of the Control Order Regulations, limited new restrictions were imposed in February 2021 in the lead-up to the Lunar New Year, which is celebrated by three-quarters of Singapore’s population.117

1.  Individual mobility restrictions on citizens (stay-at-home, curfews, etc)

74.  During the ‘circuit breaker’ period from 7 April to 1 June 2020, the Control Order Regulations prohibited every individual from leaving their ordinary place of residence, subject to certain exceptions. These included: (i) working for an essential service provider; (ii) to procure goods or services from an essential service provider; (iii) to obtain pressing medical treatment; and (iv) to engage in recreational activity in public open-air spaces alone or with individuals from the same household.118

75.  These provisions were periodically amended as the pandemic situation evolved. Currently, the general prohibition on leaving one’s place of residence remains in force, but with a greatly expanded list of exceptions.119 These run the gamut from working for or procuring services from a permitted enterprise, which currently covers most economic activity, physical exercise, visiting another place of residence, attending weddings or funerals (subject to the physical distancing rules explained in Part IV.A.5 below), leaving Singapore, to doing ‘anything reasonably connected with and for the purposes of’ the listed exceptions.

76.  Migrant workers living in dormitories are subject to a separate regime of movement restrictions, governed by the Foreign Employee Dormitories Regulations and the Employment of Foreign Manpower (Work Pass Conditions) Regulations. This will be covered in Part VI below.

2.  Restrictions on international and internal travel

77.  Restrictions on international travel were the first set of measures Singapore adopted in response to the pandemic. These were pursuant to the Immigration Act, which delegates powers to the Minister for Home Affairs to regulate or restrict cross-border travel. Beginning with temperature screening for inbound travellers from Wuhan,120 the measures were gradually scaled up. Singapore first closed its borders to new visitors with a recent travel history to Hubei, China, then to all visitors with a recent travel history to Mainland China,121 then to all travellers with a recent travel history to South Korea, Iran, or northern Italy, then the major Covid-19 hotspots. By 23 March 2020, 12 days after the WHO had declared Covid-19 a PHEIC, Singapore closed its borders to all short-term visitors worldwide. 122

78.  At the same time, the government encouraged Singapore citizens to return. Those on student exchange programmes abroad and official overseas placements were recalled. 123 The Constitution of Singapore prohibits the banishment or exclusion of citizens.124 While Permanent Residents are not constitutionally protected in the same way, Permanent Residents were also allowed to return to Singapore. Long-term social visit pass holders and work-visa holders, who were initially treated the same way, were later required to obtain government approval.125

79.  Initially, all incoming travellers were required to stay, during the 14-day period of their Stay Home Notice (‘SHN’), at designated SHN facilities. Generally, these were commercial hotels which worked with the Government for the provision of SHN services to incoming travellers. Subsequently, travellers from specific ‘low risk’ countries were able to serve a shorter seven-day SHN at their place of residence or suitable accommodation of their choice if they met certain criteria.126

80.  Initially, the Government bore the costs of staying at dedicated SHN facilities for all travellers entering Singapore, except for those who left Singapore after the Government issued its first travel advisory advising otherwise. It also bore the costs of the large majority of Covid-19 tests that incoming travellers were required to take before the end of their SHN.127

81.  These subsidies were gradually scaled back as border restrictions were eased. After 31 August 2020, all inbound travellers, including citizens and Permanent Residents, were required to pay for their Covid-19 tests. 128 After 17 June 2020, all inbound travellers other than citizens and Permanent Residents were required to pay for their stay at dedicated SHN facilities (costing approximately SGD $2000).129 Finally, as of 1 January 2021, citizens and Permanent Residents are also required to pay for their stay in designated facilities. The Government explained that this was because the ‘vast majority’ of citizens and Permanent Residents who left Singapore prior to the outbreak of Covid-19 had returned by that point.130

82.  Finally, while Singapore did not prohibit its nationals from leaving the country, citizens, Permanent Residents, or Long-Term Pass Holders who travelled after 27 March 2020 were required, upon their return, to pay the full cost of their SHN at designated facilities as well as unsubsidized hospitalization rates, where applicable. The justification was that they had ‘[disregarded] prevailing travel advisories’ and ‘[risked] the health of other Singaporeans and residents.’131

83.  At the time of writing, border restrictions remain in place. Travellers can only enter Singapore on the basis of specific schemes referred as to as ‘Safe Entry Lanes’, subject to a suite of requirements including Covid-19 testing and—for short term visitors and Work Permit holders—mandatory Covid-19 insurance.132

3.  Limitations on public and private gatherings and events

84.  During the ‘circuit breaker’, all public and private gatherings and events—except those related to essential services—were prohibited.

85.  In Phase One of re-opening, households were allowed to receive a maximum of two visitors a day, so long as (i) both visitors were ordinarily resident at the same place and (ii) each visitor was a child or grandchild of the individual receiving the visit.133 Marriage solemnizations, funerals, and wakes were permitted to resume with a maximum of ten persons attending, and with restrictions on the types of places at which marriages could be solemnised.134 Social gatherings outside these parameters remained prohibited. 135

86.  In Phase Two, social gatherings of up to five people were allowed outside places of residence,136, and households could receive up to five visitors.137 Restrictions on types of venues where marriages could be solemnized were loosened, although the maximum number of attendees remained ten.138 The maximum number of persons allowed at a funeral or wake was increased to 20.139

87.  In Phase Three,140 currently in force, social gatherings of up to eight people are allowed outside places of residence.141 Similarly, households can receive up to eight visitors.142 Religious congregational and worship services are now allowed, restrictions on them having been progressively loosened, most recently on 5 April 2021.143 Restrictions on marriage solemnisations and wedding receptions have loosened in stages as well, with 250 attendees allowed as of 5 April 2021, subject to pre-event testing.144

88.  Further, on 31 October 2020, the Ministry of Health passed the COVID‑19 (Temporary Measures) (Performances and Other Activities — Control Order) Regulations 2020 (‘Live Performances Regulations’). These regulations allowed live performances to resume with effect from 1 November 2020 (ie in the course of Phase Two) at designated venues, with up to two zones of 50 audience members each, and subject to safe management measures such as limits on the number of production crew and performers who can be unmasked, and physical distancing requirements.145 Restrictions were further lifted on 5 April 2021 to allow 750 attendees with pre-event testing or up to 250 attendees without pre-event testing.146

4.  Closure of premises and facilities (eg schools, shops, services, parks, churches, sport facilities)

89.  During the ‘circuit breaker’, all premises other than residential premises and those of essential service providers were closed to entry by any individual.147 Swimming pools, gyms, saunas, and all other shared recreation facilities in residential premises were also required to close.148 Only essential service providers were permitted to operate, (i) with prior permission from the Ministry of Trade and Industry and (ii) in accordance with any conditions accompanying this permission as well as any restrictions for that type of business or work published on a specific government website.149

90.  After the ‘circuit breaker’, businesses were allowed to resume operation, subject to a highly particularised regime of ‘Safe Management Measures’ imposed by the updated Control Order Regulations.150 In Phase One, businesses operating in settings with a lower risk of transmission were first allowed to resume, with most retail and food and beverage (F&B) outlets remaining closed.151 In Phase Two, most businesses were allowed to resume, likewise subject to Safe Management Measures. These included retail and F&B outlets (but not pubs, bars, and nightclubs), personal health and wellness services, home-based services, and sports and other public facilities.152 This remains the case in Phase Three.

91.  The legal framework for this phased reopening was provided by amendments to the Control Order Regulations. They were updated to provide that ‘permitted enterprises’ could carry on business and work (i) with prior Ministerial permission and (ii) in accordance with any conditions on this permission as well as any restrictions for that type of business or work published on a specific government website.153 A notable example of sector-specific restrictions imposed in this manner is the advisory issued to F&B businesses for the purposes of Phase Three.154 Among other restrictions, the sale and consumption of alcohol in all F&B establishments was prohibited after 10:30pm daily, presumably to lower the risk of people ignoring social distancing measures as a result of alcohol consumption.

92.  Although schools were generally closed during the ‘circuit breaker’, moving instead to home-based learning, the Government made provisions for children of essential service workers and other potentially vulnerable children (see Part VI below). As with businesses, schools re-opened in a phased manner after the ‘circuit breaker’.155

5.  Physical distancing

93.  In general, an individual outside their place of residence must at all times keep a distance of at least one metre from any other individual, except in certain situations such as lifts, motor vehicles, and public transport. 156 This ‘one-metre’ rule has remained constant from the ‘circuit breaker’ period through to the current Phase Three.

94.  Apart from this general rule, the Control Order Regulations prescribe specific physical distancing rules in certain situations, such as limitations on retail floor area capacity and obligations on permitted enterprises to ensure physical distancing on their premises.157 In respect of its permitted premises that are not public places, a permitted enterprise must take reasonable steps to ensure a physical distance of at least one metre between persons.158

95.  Finally, the Live Performances Regulations impose very specific rules on physical distancing between all persons at live performances and media conferences.159

6.  Use of face coverings or personal protective equipment (PPE)

96.  In the early days of the Covid-19 outbreak, the Government’s guidance was for individuals to wear surgical masks only when sick. The Government later changed its guidance, encouraging individuals to wear masks whenever outside their homes.160

97.  Starting from 2 June 2020, by way of amendments to the Control Order Regulations, individuals are legally obliged to wear a mask at all times when not in their ordinary place of residence.161 Exceptions apply, including strenuous physical exercise, when consuming food or drink or medication, and when travelling in a motor car alone or exclusively with members of the same household. Face shields may be worn instead of a mask in very limited circumstances.162

98.  The Government has distributed reusable masks several times to all residents, as has the charity arm of Temasek Holdings, a Government-owned investment company. 163

7.  Isolation of infected individuals and quarantine of individuals suspected of infection

99.  Exercising powers under the Infectious Diseases Act164 and the SHN Regulations, the Government isolates persons who test positive for Covid-19 in hospitals or other designated facilities.165 The latter has included collaboration with private hospitals as well as newly established ‘community care facilities’.166 In all such premises, Covid-19 patients are only discharged back into the community once they have tested negative for the virus twice over a period of 24 hours.167

100.  Quarantine Orders under the Infectious Diseases Act are issued to close contacts of confirmed Covid-19 cases, who are then required to serve their Quarantine Order at home or in dedicated Government Quarantine Facilities.168

8.  Testing, treatment, and vaccination

101.  Covid-19 PCR tests are free-of-charge in all cases where a doctor assesses that they are clinically necessary.169 The government bore the costs of compulsory Covid-19 tests for the majority of incoming travellers before 31 August 2020, as well as where the government required surveillance testing in particular situations.170

102.  The government has also borne the cost of Rostered Routine Testing (RRT) of workers in sectors that have a higher risk of exposure to Covid-19 or with a larger negative impact should a Covid-19 infection materialize in their midst. These include workers living in dormitories and those working in construction and other sectors. As of now, the Government has committed to bearing such costs until 30 September 2021.171

103.  The government previously bore the cost of treatment for Singapore citizens, Permanent Residents, and Long Term Pass Holders admitted to public hospitals for Covid-19, except for those who left Singapore after 27 March 2020.172 However, with effect from 1 January 2021, these categories of persons are responsible for their inpatient medical bills, whether or not they last left Singapore before 27 March 2020, should they develop an onset of symptoms within 14 days of their arrival in Singapore.173

104.  The shifting of Covid-19 cases with mild or no symptoms to community care facilities rather than hospitals was meant to free up hospital capacity in order to treat those in need.174 Hospitals have so far been able to treat everybody in need of treatment. As of 3 May 2021, of approximately 61,000 Covid-19 cases, Singapore has seen a total of 31 deaths.175

105.  To ensure access to vaccines, vaccination is free for all Singaporeans, Permanent Residents, and long-term residents in Singapore, totalling approximately 5.7 million people.176 In line with the Expert Committee’s recommendations, vaccination is voluntary.177

106.  In line with WHO guidance, healthcare workers and staff working in the healthcare sector were the first in line to be vaccinated, along with other essential personnel.178 Next in line were vaccinations of the elderly and those at greater risk of severe disease.179 The vaccination of residents aged 45 to 59 is currently ongoing. 180

9.  Contact tracing procedures

107.  Under the Infectious Diseases Act, the Director of Medical Services is empowered to direct that contact tracing measures be conducted at any premises, if they are ‘satisfied’ that such measures are ‘necessary to prevent the spread or possible outbreak of any infectious disease’.181

108.  The Control Order Regulations impose obligations on certain parties to establish and apply appropriate procedures to enable contact tracing on premises or at events under their control. These parties include the organizers of weddings and funerals, as well as permitted enterprises.182 The Live Performances Regulations also requires the occupier of premises at which live performances take place to do so.183

109.  The above provisions do not prescribe the specific form of contact tracing that must be employed. Nevertheless, two contact tracing technologies have become widely used.

110.  ‘SafeEntry’ is a digital check-in system which logs entry into a venue when an individual scans a QR code on their mobile devices and enters their personal information.

111.  ‘TraceTogether’ uses Bluetooth wireless technology to track close encounters between people, via a smartphone application or portable electronic tokens which were distributed by the Government.

112.  Both SafeEntry and TraceTogether were developed by the Government Technology Agency (also known as ‘GovTech’).

113.  In early May 2020, the government announced that the use of SafeEntry would be compulsory at all business premises and public venues beginning on 12 May 2020.184 The legal modality of this appears to be the sector-specific rules pursuant to the Control Order Regulations.

114.  Take-up rate for the TraceTogether app was initially very low as residents expressed concerns about data privacy.185 Others had more practical reasons, complaining about the app’s drain on one’s smartphone battery.186 The government and experts took pains to explain that the app is ‘privacy-preserving by design’, ie that no GPS location data is collected and the devices only exchange encrypted and anonymised Bluetooth signals with other TraceTogether devices nearby.187 To address practical concerns about the app, a TraceTogether token was made available to every resident in Singapore.

115.  Even after approximately seven months after the app was launched, the take-up rate remained at only around 45% of the population.188 It was only when the government conditioned Phase Three of Singapore’s re-opening on TraceTogether reaching a 70% uptake among the population,189 that the take-up rate increased and the threshold was reached in December 2020.190

116.  A crisis of trust arose in relation to the use of data collected by TraceTogether. The government had maintained that the program automatically deletes data after 25 days and that the data is only requested by the authorities when a user is confirmed to be a positive case for Covid-19, ie for contact tracing purposes.191 In January 2021, however, it was revealed during parliamentary question time that such data remains subject to the generally applicable Criminal Procedure Code, and had in fact been used in investigations in one murder case nine months earlier.192 Public outrage was swift and loud, reflecting a sense of betrayal of trust. The Government first sought to address this by clarifying that the data would only be used for ‘very serious offences’ as a matter of police discretion.193 Subsequently, presumably because this was thought insufficient to assuage public sentiment, the government introduced an expedited bill amending the CTMA to this effect.194

117.  Finally, the government also distributed ‘BluePass’ contact tracing devices to all migrant and local workers living or employed in dormitories, as well as those working at construction sites, shipyards, and process sectors.195 BluePass is a contact tracing technology developed by a private developer. The devices are designed to be wearable on work sites and are interoperable with the use of the TraceTogether app on workers’ smartphones.

10.  Measures in long-term care facilities or homes for the elderly, restrictions on visitors etc.

118.  Beginning on 1 April 2020—ie preceding the control orders empowered by the CTMA—the Ministry of Health suspended all visits to nursing homes for the elderly. This followed the revelation of a cluster of Covid-19 cases in a particular nursing home.196

119.  During the circuit breaker from 7 April to 1 June 2020, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Development, under whose executive purview the administration of nursing homes falls, collaborated with nursing homes to implement a range of safety measures, including access to ample Personal Protective Equipment and moving resident-facing staff into hotels or other designated facilities.197 A comprehensive testing regime was also implemented in all nursing homes. It revealed a cluster of Covid-19 cases at another nursing home, which was then swiftly addressed.198

120.  Following the transition to Phase Two on 19 June 2020, visitors were once again allowed, subject to restrictions based on guidelines by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social and Family Development.199 These restrictions aim to balance the particular vulnerability of elderly persons to Covid-19 with the recognition that the prolonged suspension of visitations is likely to have an adverse impact on the wellbeing of elderly persons and their loved ones.200 The restrictions were marginally loosened over time, but remain in place. Nursing home staff also remain subject to regular surveillance testing.201

B.  Enforcement and Compliance

1.  Enforcement

121.  The Government has deployed various tools to maximize the enforcement of public health measures.

122.  First, the Government has deployed an extensive pool of enforcement officers. The CTMA empowers the Ministry of Health to employ ‘enforcement officers’, who may include police officers, auxiliary police officers, Health Officers appointed under the Infectious Diseases Act, public officers, officers of statutory bodies, and employees of prescribed institutions under the Infections Diseases Act. 202 In addition, the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) recruited ‘Safe Distancing Ambassadors’ who are deployed to monitor and advise the public to comply with safe distancing measures in public spaces.203 Safe Distancing Ambassadors do not have the powers of ‘enforcement officers’ within the meaning of the CTMA. Nevertheless, Safe Distancing Ambassadors have been a significant, ‘soft’ means of ensuring compliance with physical distancing requirements. During the ‘circuit breaker’, approximately 3000 were deployed daily.204

123.  Second, the Government made efforts to facilitate compliance. The several rounds of mask distribution is one example of this. The Government also arguably displayed a high degree of responsiveness to feedback, including by easing restrictions in response to particular difficulties highlighted by members of the public.205

124.  Third, the Government displayed flexibility in enforcement where appropriate. For example, while the Control Order Regulations extend to private residences, the police have expressly refrained from proactive enforcement of the rules in these spaces.206 Further, the high rate of non-compliance among the elderly during the ‘circuit breaker’ was not met by strict enforcement action. Rather, government messaging at the highest level—from the Prime Minister—was deployed to communicate empathy with the difficulties they faced, and to make a ‘special appeal’ to them to remain home as required.207

125.  Fourth, and finally, the Government has not shied away from bringing the full force of criminal and civil sanctions to bear, under both the CTMA and the Infectious Disease Act, where it deemed necessary. In particular, breaches of SHN have been swiftly met with prosecution or, where applicable, the revocation of work passes.208 Breaches of social distancing rules and restrictions on gatherings have also attracted sanctions, albeit on a less ‘zero-tolerance’ basis. Criminal and immigration sanctions appear to have been pursued in particularly egregious cases, particularly where the persons involved posted photographs of the unlawful events on social media.209 Several business establishments have also been fined or closed down for failing to ensure that the necessary safe distancing measures were met.210

2.  Compliance

126.  Early studies in April and August 2020, ie during the ‘circuit breaker’ and Phase Two respectively, show generally high compliance with public health measures, despite some measure of ‘coronavirus fatigue’.211 These studies relied on respondents self-reporting their level of compliance and thus may have overstated this level, given that respondents may not feel comfortable revealing their non-compliance with legally mandated public health measures. The data may also be outdated. Nevertheless, the overall level of compliance with public health measures in Singapore appears to be relatively high. In reflecting on the success of Singapore’s pandemic response, the Prime Minister attributed it to cooperation and compliance by members of the public.212

127.  Location tracking data from Google’s Covid-19 Community Mobility Reports confirmed that residents of Singapore spent significantly more time at home and less time at places associated with retail and recreation, as well as public transport and workplaces, during certain weeks in which the ‘circuit breaker’ measures were in place. However, possibly due to the high rate of use of contact tracing technology such as TraceTogether and SafeEntry (see Part IV.A.9 above), Singapore has not generally relied on mobility data as a proxy for compliance.

Jaclyn Neo, Associate Professor, Director, Centre for Asian Legal Studies, National University of Singapore

Shirin Chua, Research Associate, Centre for Asian Legal Studies, National University of Singapore


1  Lam Peng Er and Kevin Tan, Managing Political Change in Singapore: The Elected Presidency (Routledge 1997).

4  J Neo and D Lee, ‘Singapore’s Legislative Approach to the COVID-19 Public Health “Emergency”’, Verfassungblog (18 April 2020).

5  World Trade Organization, ‘Singapore and the WTO’ (accessed 9 June 2021).

6  Ministry of Trade and Industry, ‘International Investment Agreements’ (updated 30 April 2021).

7  Enterprise Singapore, ‘Free Trade Agreements’ (updated 28 April 2021).

9  Ministry of Health, ‘Circuit breaker to minimise further spread of COVID-19’ (3 April 2020), [24]–[27].

10  Ministry of Health, ‘Covid-19 vaccination’ (updated 3 May 2021).

11  Ministry of Health, ‘Ministerial Statement by Mr Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Health, at Parliament, on the third update on whole-of-government response to COVID-19’ (4 January 2021), [13].

13  Singapore Parliamentary Debates, Infectious Diseases (Amendment No. 2) Act (25 April 2013), col 2196 (per Chiam See Tong).

20  Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act 2020, s 1(8) (as at 7 April 2020).

21  J Neo and D Lee, ‘Singapore’s Legislative Approach to the COVID-19 Public Health “Emergency”’, Verfassungblog (18 April 2020).

24  There are two types of non-elected members in the Singapore Parliament: Constitution of the Republic of Singapore, art 39. The first are Non-Constituency Members of Parliament (‘NCMP’) and the other are Nominated Members of Parliament (‘NMP’). The NCMPs are members ‘as the Legislature may provide in any law relating to Parliamentary elections’ to ‘ensure the representation in Parliament of a minimum number of Members from a political party or parties not forming the Government’. NMPs, not exceeding nine in number, are appointed by the President in accordance with the provisions of the Fourth Schedule. NMPs cannot vote on certain motions, including those pertaining to a Bill to amend the Constitution, Supply Bills, votes of no confidence in the Government and votes to remove the President from office.

26  Tham Yuen-C, ‘Parliament: Fake news law passed after 2 days of debateThe Straits Times (Singapore, 9 May 2019).

32  J Neo and D Lee, ‘Singapore’s Legislative Approach to the COVID-19 Public Health “Emergency”’, Verrfassungblog (18 April 2020).

33  See eg A Etzioni, ‘COVID-19 Tests Communitarian Values’ The Diplomat (Online, 14 July 2020).

35  Ministry of Health, ‘Promulgation of regulations under Infectious Diseases Act’ (26 March 2020).

39  See Singapore Statutes Online, ‘Subsidiary Legislation, COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act’ (9 March 2021).

47  Ministry of Health, ‘Past Updates on COVID-19 Local Situation’ (updated 3 May 2021).

50  Parliament of Singapore, Standing Orders of the Parliament of Singapore (8 May 2017); see eg National Archives of Singapore, ‘Papers Presented to Parliament’ (accessed 14 September 2021); COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) (Amendment No. 16) Regulations 2021 (25 August 2021).

51  Constitution of the Republic of Singapore, arts 52 (Standing Orders) and 57 (Voting).

52  UK Parliament, ‘Negative Procedure’ (accessed 14 September 2021).

55  Parliament of Singapore, ‘Opening of Parliament to be held at Parliament House and the Arts House’ (21 August 2020).

56  Office of the Clerk of Parliament, ‘Stepped Up Precautionary Measures Against COVID-19 in Parliament’ (25 March 2020).

60  Nagaenthran a/l K Dharmalingam v Public Prosecutor [2019] 2 SLR 216 (Court of Appeal), [47]–[51], [74].

67  Supreme Court of the Republic of Singapore, Registrar’s Circular No 4 of 2020, ‘Update on measures relating to Covid-19 for the period from 7 April to 4 May 2020’ (5 April 2020); Supreme Court of the Republic of Singapore, Registrar’s Circular No 5 of 2020, ‘Updates on measures relating to Covid-19 for the period from 5 May 2020 to 1 June 2020’ (24 April 2020); State Courts of the Republic of Singapore, Registrar’s Circular No 8 of 2020, ‘Update on measures relating to Covid-19 for the period from 7 April to 4 May 2020’ (5 April 2020); State Courts of the Republic of Singapore, Registrar’s Circular No 9 of 2020, ‘Updates on measures relating to Covid-19 for the period from 5 May 2020 to 1 June 2020’ (24 April 2020); Family Justice Courts of the Republic of Singapore, Registrar’s Circular No 2 of 2020, ‘Update on measures relating to Covid-19 for the period from 7 April to 4 May 2020’ (5 April 2020); Family Justice Courts of the Republic of Singapore, Registrar’s Circular No 3 of 2020, ‘Updates on measures relating to Covid-19 for the period from 5 May 2020 to 1 June 2020’ (24 April 2020).

68  Supreme Court of the Republic of Singapore, Registrar’s Circular No 4 of 2020, ‘Update on measures relating to Covid-19 for the period from 7 April to 4 May 2020’ (5 April 2020), [40].

69  Supreme Court of the Republic of Singapore, Registrar’s Circular No 4 of 2020, ‘Update on measures relating to Covid-19 for the period from 7 April to 4 May 2020’ (5 April 2020).

70  Supreme Court of the Republic of Singapore, ‘Response of Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon: Opening of Legal Year 2021’ (11 January 2021).

73  GE2020 - why a new mandate is needed: PM Lee’ The Straits Times (Online, 24 June 2020).

74  C Yeo, ‘PM Lee calls General Election 2020, says it will ‘clear the decks’ for fresh mandate’ Channel News Asia (Online, 23 June 2020).

75  De Costa Augustin v Attorney-General [2020] 2 SLR 621 (Court of Appeal).

77  Elections Department, ‘Preliminary Campaigning Guidelines for General Elections Under Covid-19’ (18 June 2020), [4] and [5].

78  Government of Singapore, ‘How voting will be safely conducted if done during COVID-19 situation’ (8 June 2020).

79  Elections Department, ‘Preliminary Campaigning Guidelines for General Elections Under Covid-19’ (18 June 2020), [13].

80  Elections Department, ‘Preliminary Campaigning Guidelines for General Elections Under Covid-19’ (18 June 2020), [10] and [14]

84  YC Tham and others, ‘GE2020 results: Pritam Singh leads Workers' Party to victory in Aljunied GRC with higher margin than in 2015’ The Straits Times (Online, 11 July 2020); J Abu Baker ‘GE2020: Workers’ Party wins new Sengkang GRC with 52.13% of votes’ Channel News Asia (Online, 11 July 2020).

86  J Abu Baker and L Chia, ‘GE2020: PAP has a ‘clear mandate’, but popular vote share ‘not as high’ as hoped: PM Lee’ Channel News Asia (Online, 11 July 2020).

87  J Abu Baker and L Chia, ‘GE2020: PAP has a ‘clear mandate’, but popular vote share ‘not as high’ as hoped: PM Lee’ Channel News Asia (Online, 11 July 2020); see also Alvin Tan, ‘GE2020: Not Quite a Digital Election?’ in Kevin YL Tan and Terence Lee (eds), Voting in a Time of Change: Singapore’s 2020 General Election (Ethos Books 2021).

88  J Abu Baker and L Chia, ‘GE2020: PAP has a ‘clear mandate’, but popular vote share ‘not as high’ as hoped: PM Lee’ Channel News Asia (Online, 11 July 2020).

92  Y Sin, ‘MOH's first chief health scientist’ The Straits Times (Online, 1 May 2020).

93  See eg C Chong, ‘Covid-19 vaccination in Singapore likely to be rolled out from 2021’ The Straits Times (Online, 20 October 2020).

94  Ministry of Health, ‘Expert Committee appointed to make recommendations to the government on Covid-19 vaccination strategy’ (12 November 2020).

95  Ministry of Health, ‘Government accepts recommendations of Expert Committee on Covid-19 Vaccination’ (27 December 2020).

97  Interpretation Act, s 23(1).

100  Tham YC, ‘“Role of newsrooms critical amid coronavirus crisis”, says ST editor Warren Fernandez’ The Straits Times (Online, 15 May 2020).

102  Chew HM, ‘6 in 10 people in Singapore have received fake COVID-19 news, likely on social media: Survey’ Channel News Asia (Online, 21 May 2020).

103  Gov.sg, ‘Clarifications: Misinformation, rumours regarding COVID-19’ (23 April 2020).

104  YF Kok, ‘Activist Jolovan Wham apologises for claims’ The Straits Times (Online, 23 May 2020).

108  Ministry of Communications and Information, ‘Minister for Communications and Information directs POFMA Office to issue Disabling Order’ (8 May 2020); Ministry of Communications and Information, ‘Minister for Communications and Information directs POFMA Office to issue Disabling Order’ (30 May 2020).

110  Wham Kwok Han Jolovan v PP [2020] SGCA 111, [23] (Singapore Court of Appeal)

111  Wham Kwok Han Jolovan v PP [2020] SGCA 111, [24] (Singapore Court of Appeal).

112  Wham Kwok Han Jolovan v PP [2020] SGCA 111, [24] (Singapore Court of Appeal).

113  E Tandoc Jr and others, ‘Commentary: Misinformation threatens Singapore’s COVID-19 vaccination programme’ Channel News Asia (Online, 12 January 2021); YC Tham, ‘Falsehoods on coronavirus show why Pofma is necessary’ The Straits Times (Online, 4 February 2020); A Mahmud, ‘IN FOCUS: Has POFMA been effective? A look at the fake news law, 1 year since it kicked in’ Channel News Asia (Online, 3 October 2020).

114  C Agrawal, ‘How an ombudsman could benefit Singapore’ TODAY (Online, 13 July 2016).

115  Leon Perera on reviewing Singapore’s justice system’ Channel News Asia (Online, 4 November 2020).

116  Singapore Statutes Online, ‘Timeline of COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations 2020’ (accessed 14 September 2021).

117  N Bowie, ‘Singapore set for an inauspicious Chinese New Year’ Asia Times (Online, 29 January 2021); COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations 2020 (7 April 2020), s 4(4) and First Schedule (as amended by S 40/2021 with effect from 26 January 2021).

118  COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations 2020 (7 April 2020), s 4 (7 April 2020).

120  Ministry of Health, ‘Precautionary Measures in Response to Severe Pneumonia Cases in Wuhan, China’ (2 January 2020).

121  Chang AL, ‘Wuhan virus: Visitors with recent travel history to China not allowed to enter or transit in Singapore’ The Straits Times (Online, 31 January 2020).

123  Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ‘Advisory for Singaporean Students Studying Overseas’ (17 March 2020); Ministry of Education, ‘Institutes of Higher Learning to Suspend All Official Overseas Placements’ (15 March 2020).

126  Ministry of Health, ‘Updates to Stay-Home Notice and charging policy for travellers’ (27 October 2020).

127  Ministry of Health, ‘Updates to Stay-Home Notice and charging policy for travellers’ (27 October 2020).

128  Ministry of Health, ‘Updates to Stay-Home Notice and charging policy for travellers’ (27 October 2020).

129  Ministry of Health, ‘Updates to Stay-Home Notice and charging policy for travellers’ (27 October 2020).

130  Ministry of Health, ‘Updates to Stay-Home Notice and charging policy for travellers’ (27 October 2020).

131  Ministry of Health, ‘Tighter Measures to Minimise Further Spread of COVID- 19’ (24 March 2020).

132  Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, ‘Travelling to Singapore: General Entry from All Countries/Regions’ (updated 3 May 2021); Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, ‘Travel and Control Measures: Overview’ (updated 3 May 2021).

133  COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations 2020 (7 April 2020), s 4(4)(e) (2 June 2020).

134  COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations 2020 (7 April 2020), ss 7A and 13(2) (2 June 2020).

135  COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations 2020 (7 April 2020), s 6 (2 June 2020).

136  COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations 2020 (7 April 2020), s 6 (19 June 2020).

137  COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations 2020 (7 April 2020), s 4(4) (19 June 2020).

138  COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations 2020 (7 April 2020), s 7A (19 June 2020).

139  COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations 2020 (7 April 2020), s 13(2) (19 June 2020).

143  Ang HM, ‘COVID-19: Social gatherings of up to 8 people allowed from Dec 28, further reopening of activities in Phase 3’ Channel News Asia (Online, 14 December 2020); Minister of Culture, Community and Youth, ‘Moving into Phase Three of re-opening for religious activities’ (31 March 2021).

144  Ministry of Health, ‘Expansion of Vaccination Programme; Further Easing of Community Measures’ (24 March 2021).

146  Ministry of Health, ‘Expansion of Vaccination Programme; Further Easing of Community Measures’ (24 March 2021).

147  COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations 2020 (7 April 2020), s 9(1) (7 April 2020).

148  COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations 2020 (7 April 2020), s 9(2) (7 April 2020).

149  COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations 2020 (7 April 2020), s 10 (7 April 2020).

150  COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations 2020 (7 April 2020), Part 3A, Division 2.

154  Joint Advisory by Enterprise Singapore, Housing & Development Board, Singapore Food Agency, Singapore Tourism Board, and Urban Redevelopment Authority, ‘Advisory for Phase 3 Re-opening of Food & Beverage Establishments’ (30 January 2021).

160  Ministry of Health, ‘Circuit breaker to minimise further spread of COVID-19’ (3 April 2020).

163  HM Ang, ‘Singapore to distribute ‘better’ reusable face masks to households’ Channel News Asia (Online, 6 May 2020).

164  Infectious Diseases Act, ss 15, 17.

168  Ministry of Health, ‘FAQs on the COVID-19 Situation’, s G (last updated 22 April 2021).

169  Ministry of Health, ‘FAQs on the COVID-19 Situation’, s E, Q1 (last updated 22 April 2021).

170  Ministry of Health, ‘Tightening Safe Management measures and update on vaccination plans’ (22 January 2021), [10].

171  Ministry of Health, ‘Tightening Safe Management measures and update on vaccination plans’ (22 January 2021), [13].

172  Ministry of Health, ‘Three more cases discharged, ten more cases of Covid-19 infection confirmed’ (9 March 2020), [8].

173  Ministry of Health, ‘Updates to Stay-Home Notice and charging policy for travellers’ (27 October 2020), [8].

175  Johns Hopkins University, Coronavirus Resource Center, ‘Mortality Analyses’ (updated 2 May 2021).

179  Ministry of Health, ‘Start of Covid-19 vaccination for seniors’ (19 February 2021).

180  Ministry of Health, ‘Expansion of Vaccination Programme; Further Easing of Community Measures’ (24 March 2021).

181  Infectious Diseases Act, s 19A.

182  COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations 2020 (7 April 2020), ss 7A(2), 8(1)(b), 10B(1)(c).

185  D Sim and K Lim, ‘Coronavirus: why aren’t Singapore residents using the TraceTogether contact-tracing app?’ South China Morning Post (Online, 18 May 2020).

186  D Sim and K Lim, ‘Coronavirus: why aren’t Singapore residents using the TraceTogether contact-tracing app?’ South China Morning Post (Online, 18 May 2020).

190  H Baharudin, ‘TraceTogether programme hits 70% participation among Singapore residents’ The Straits Times (Online, 24 December 2020).

192  D Sun, ‘TraceTogether data was accessed in May 2020 for Punggol Fields murder investigation’ The Straits Times (2 February 2021).

193  H Bahrudin, ‘Police will restrict use of TraceTogether data to 'very serious offences', says Shanmugam’ The Straits Times (Online, 5 January 2021).

195  WK Ng, ‘Over 450,000 workers to get contact-tracing devices’ The Straits Times (Online, 18 October 2020).

197  Ministry of Health, ‘Support measures for seniors during Covid-19’ (8 May 2020).

198  HS Ng, ‘Four residents at Orange Valley Nursing Home in Simei found to have COVID-19 after testing’ Channel News Asia (Online, 2 May 2020).

200  Ministry of Health, ‘Visitation guidelines for nursing homes’ (5 October 2020).

208  See eg Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, ‘Two Singapore Citizens Charged After Breaching Stay-Home Notice’ (7 April 2020); Ministry of Manpower, ‘89 Work Passes Revoked for Breach of Entry Approval and Stay-Home Notice Requirements’ (21 March 2020); S Alkhatib, ‘Jail for Briton, S'porean wife who met in hotel where he was serving quarantine’ The Straits Times (Online, 26 February 2021); L Lam, ‘Man charged after having bak kut teh meal at hawker centre while on stay-home notice’ Channel News Asia (Online, 7 April 2020).

209  See eg D Low, ‘Robertson Quay incident: Seven fined, work passes for six revoked’ The Straits Times (Online, 26 June 2020); J Abu Baker ‘Terence Cao and guest charged with breaching COVID-19 regulations during birthday party’ Channel News Asia (Online, 2 March 2020); L Lam, ‘6 people fined over large gathering on Lazarus Island amid COVID-19 outbreak’ Channel News Asia (Online, 26 November 2020).

210  See eg Ministry of Health, ‘Premises ordered to close under Infectious Diseases Act’ (6 April 2020); and S Begum, ‘Banana Leaf Apollo to be charged with breaching Covid-19 measures, 11 more F&B outlets penalised’ The Straits Times (Online, 10 February 2021).

211  R Kurohi ‘Reach poll shows most Singaporeans complied with circuit breaker measures to stem spread of Covid-19’ The Straits Times (Online, 20 April 2020); T Goh, ‘44% of people in Singapore tired of rules to limit Covid-19 spread: Survey’ The Straits Times (Online, 20 April 2020).

212  H Baharudin, ‘Singapore handled Covid-19 pandemic well, with some lessons to be drawn’ The Straits Times (Online, 3 September 2020).