Confused about the latest circuit breaker measures around exercise and outdoor time? We break down the key takeaways and explain exactly how they affect families and kids
On 21 April Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong sent parents across Singapore running for the wine when he announced that the Circuit Breaker would be extended by four weeks to 1 June 2020, with tightened measures in place for at least two weeks. There was some ambiguity in his words that left parents wondering whether they can still bring their kids outside, while the Ministry of Education also weighed in by subsequently announcing that local school holidays will be brought forward to 5 May.
Here are 5 key ways in which the tightened Circuit Breaker measures impact families and kids. We have linked to direct quotes from relevant government agencies wherever possible, but do note that there still seem to be plenty of grey areas with some room for interpretation. Like Prime Minister Lee said, there’s a difference between adhering to the letter of the law and the spirit of it – while it may be technically legal to take your kids out for a walk or scooter ride, bear in mind precisely why the government is recommending against it (while also considering its impact on your own mental health and your kids’ physical wellbeing!).
1. Kids are encouraged to stay inside as much as possible
In his address PM Lee said,
“If you do need to go out, then go by yourself, not as a group or as a family. Even when exercising outside, do so only by yourself, and only in your own neighbourhood. Remember: it is not just about adhering to the letter of the law.
The spirit of the guidelines is to reduce movement to a minimum, and to avoid being out and about in the community. This is the way to protect yourself, your family and everyone else.”
This sent parents scrambling to figure out whether or not children are specifically forbidden from going outside (because it’s not like they can go out on their own!). He didn’t say this specifically, but it does seem to be heavily implied. The Ministry of Health followed up with the following clarifications:
“We ask all to observe the spirit of the circuit breaker measures. Individuals who need to leave their homes should do so on their own, and not in groups or as a household. If there is a need to exercise outside, we urge everyone to do so alone and in their immediate neighbourhoods, rather than travel unnecessarily to other parts of Singapore.
We want to minimise the number of people out and about, to reduce the chances of community transmission. We understand that some members of the public will need to be accompanied by a caregiver, for example, frail seniors, the disabled, and young children. We encourage everyone to adhere to the spirit of the guidelines to minimise movement, and complete their tasks and return to their homes quickly.”
Given how much time we’re all spending inside, getting fresh air for our kids seems more vital than ever. We are also concerned about myopia given how much more screen time kids are probably getting. If you absolutely must take your kids outside – and we totally get it! – try to only take one at a time, wear masks, and take every precaution to socially distance from others.
2. School Holidays moved forward, and Home-Based Learning reduced
The Ministry of Education announced that local school holidays – normally scheduled for June – would instead be brought forward to run from 5 May to 1 June. Term 3 will now commence on 2 June, with an additional one-week break implemented from 20-26 July 2020. This also means the cessation of home-based learning (HBL) for local primary schools for the final four weeks of the Circuit Breaker. The MOE explained its rationale on Facebook:
“It is better not to extend the HBL. HBL is a fall back when schools are suspended; it cannot be a prolonged substitute for school. It is better to let everyone have a break from this intense period.”
If the stress of keeping on top of your kids’ HBL has been driving you up a wall, mama, you’re in luck. On the other hand, time that might have normally been spent traveling or attending fun school holiday camps will instead be spent at home, where the kids will almost certainly spend a lot more time on screens, or complaining about being bored. Be sure to check out our ultimate Family Circuit Breaker Survival Guide for an extensive and ever-growing list of educational resources and fun at-home activities to keep kids of all ages engaged and stimulated.
3. Exercise indoors whenever possible, and stay close to home
In his original announcement about the Circuit Breaker in early April, Prime Minister Lee said that people could still exercise outdoors and visit public parks. The government also made an exception for mask wearing to say that people “exercising strenuously” (such as running or power walking) could abstain from wearing a mask.
A series of controversies unfolded. People started loitering in parks – kicking soccer balls, having picnics – to the point that grassy expanses were then closed. Walking paths grew increasingly crowded. People didn’t follow the mask guidelines particularly closely.
On 21 April, Sport Singapore urged people to exercise at home (bold and underlined in their official statement!) to keep movements to a minimum and reduce community spread. With regard to outdoor exercise, Sport Singapore explicitly said people should not exercise outdoors, but elaborated:
“While not encouraged, individuals may leave home to walk, run, cycle or engage in other similar exercise, alone, and in their immediate neighbourhood. Individuals should not linger after exercise, and should return home immediately after they are done with their exercise.”
To further underscore this point, NParks announced that all food & beverage outlets in parks would be closed, and that the carparks for parks and nature reserves will now be closed. In other words – don’t think about driving out to MacRitchie or Sungei Buloh for a family hike or a trail run, even if they aren’t crowded.=
We are huge proponents of exercise, whether for bolstering immunity and improving both physical and mental wellbeing, But if you can’t safely social distance while running or biking around your condo or neighbourhood, simply don’t do it, mamas. There are plenty of free and fun online exercise classes and fitness apps, plus it’s a great way to support local businesses.
4. Barber Shops, Pet Stores, Bubble Tea & Wine (!) No Longer Essential
In the evening after the 5pm announcement on 21 April, there were reportedly lines at barbershops all around Singapore as people tried to squeeze in one last haircut. This was due to tightened restrictions and safe distancing measures relating to F&B and retail outlets. Click that link for an explicit breakdown, but in general the following will now be closed until 1 June:
- Barbershops and Hair Salons
- Pet Stores
- Beverage-only outlets (including bubble tea, smoothies, soya bean, coffee, and liquor, wine & beer). NB: Cafes like Starbucks that also sell hot food may remain open.
- Dessert shops (including red/green bean soup, ice cream/frozen yogurt, cakes, cupcakes, pastries and doughnuts)
To our great relief, bakeries will remain open. Hawker centres, shops selling hot food (such as Old Chang Kee and BreadTalk), hardware stores, grocery and convenience stores, and pharmacies will all also remain open.
5. Restricted Entry to Some Wet Markets
Despite all the calls for social distancing (and plenty of monitoring by government officials), certain wet markets have continued to be pretty crowded (maybe it’s because all the online grocery stores are overbooked…we’re just sayin’!).
In response to this, the government announced restricted access to the following four markets:
- Geylang Serai Market
- Chong Pang Market (Block 104/105 Yishun Ring Road)
- Block 20/21 Marsiling Lane
- Block 505 Jurong West
From 22 April, your access to these markets is based on the last digit of your NRIC/FIN number. Those with an even digit can visit on even dates of the month, while those with an odd digit can visit on odd dates. So if your NRIC ends is 7, you can go to the market on April 27th, but not on the 28th.
You should also try to visit wet markets at off-peak times, ideally early in the morning or after 10am (according to NEA there’s still plenty of fresh produce available until at least noon). Weekdays are also less crowded than weekends.
We know this is a challenging time for everyone, but let’s all do our part to stay positive and show gratitude for our health, our families, and this rare opportunity to slow down and be more mindful.
Check out our Ultimate Family Circuit Breaker Survival Guide for:
- Fun at-home activities for preschoolers and older kids
- Easy recipes and restaurant/food delivery deals
- Suggestions for family fun, from board games to the best Netflix shows to stream
- Dozens of free online streaming workouts
- …and much more!
Lead image sourced via Getty; HBL image courtesy of Jessica Bernard; park image by NParks; wet market image courtesy of Guang’s Fresh Seafood