Gan Kim Yong explains 5-person dining in rule for Bloomberg forum, stresses event's importance for S'pore

SINGAPORE – The Bloomberg New Economy Forum (NEF) is an important event that will help Singapore to maintain its status as a hub city, which in turn will support economic recovery and create good jobs for Singaporeans, said Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong.

And as one of the key objectives of the forum is to facilitate business networking, groups of up to five will thus be allowed to dine together at forum venues and other designated restaurants in the city, he told reporters in an interview on Monday (Oct 25).

“We will need to ensure that they have space to be able to interact with one another, so that they can network and meet their business associates to talk business with one another,” said Mr Gan.

He added that participants may need to hold discussions in groups, and they will thus be allowed to dine in larger groups of five.

“They also need to make use of every moment that is available, because many of them travel from many different places, and they do want to maximise the value that they can get while they are here.”

Mr Gan was addressing unhappiness from some quarters over the perceived inconsistency in rules for forum delegates and the general public, who can dine in groups of two.

Some had also expressed concerns about the risk of transmitting Covid-19 to the community as a result of the forum, after The Straits Times reported details of the NEF on Sunday.

The NEF will be held from Nov 16 to 19 at the Capella Singapore hotel, and is expected to draw more than 300 participants from 51 countries, including current and former heads of states and global chief executives.

ST had seen a note from Economic Development Board chairman Beh Swan Gin to forum delegates that groups of up to five may dine together at NEF venues and other designated restaurants in the city. Guests can include non-delegates.

The authorities had outlined safety measures to reduce the risk of transmission, including requiring all forum participants, including locals, to undergo daily pre-event testing on event days.

Venues and restaurants for forum delegates must be pre-designated and made exclusive for the event, with non-delegates who go to these places required to test negative beforehand.

Asked why the Government is not allowing Singaporeans to dine and meet in larger group sizes as well, Mr Gan said the scale of risk is different.

While there is a limited number of forum delegates, allowing the general public to dine in larger groups means more than five million people can do so, he added.

“Those who are infected may bring back the virus back home and they may have seniors at home who will be exposed to the danger,” he said.

“So we have to bear this in mind as we discuss and explore the possibilities for opening up dining in flexibility for locals.”

He noted that it will not be practical to impose a pre-testing requirement like that of the NEF, which will run for only several days. 

If the restrictions on dining in are relaxed in this manner for the general public, everyone who goes out for a meal would have to be tested, which is not a good solution, Mr Gan said.

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On Saturday, the multi-ministry task force handling Covid-19 – which Mr Gan co-chairs – said it will allow people from the same household to dine in groups of up to five if the weekly infection growth rate falls and the hospital situation is stable.

In his note, Dr Beh also said NEF delegates who apply for an authorised letter of entry can enter Singapore from any country regardless of travel history, and arrive on any commercial flight or private jet.

They will be exempt from quarantine upon arrival, though they must stay in their hotel rooms until they receive a negative result from the on-arrival polymerase chain reaction test taken at the airport.

Addressing this on Monday, the minister stressed that forum delegates will be subject to strict measures, and must be fully vaccinated.

These measures are stricter than existing ones for larger-scale events that Singaporeans attend, such as wedding receptions, he added.

Pre-event testing is not required for some attendees at weddings, such as those who are fully vaccinated.

He noted that a major outbreak stemming from the forum is unlikely, due to the daily testing that will allow Covid-19 cases to be picked up early.

“What is important is that, from Singapore’s perspective, we have to do this in a safe way to minimise the potential risk for infection to the community,” Mr Gan said.

“And that’s why we have put in place additional safeguards over and beyond what we are doing for weddings and for the usual Mice (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) activities.”

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