2022 roundup: S’poreans collectively cheered when outdoor mask-wearing finally became optional


To round off 2022, Petir.sg is looking back at moments where our Party decisively took action this year.

No masks outdoors. Meeting in groups of up to ten people.

We might take these (and international travel) for granted now as the year closes, but on March 29, 2022, this easing of pandemic-era Safe Measurement Measures (SMMs) was a major turning point for the nation.

It was also major for one reason: It was the first time mask-wearing rules were eased.

For many people, the inconveniences of mask-wearing — the ragged breathing, the foggy glasses, the maskne — had come to represent everything that was frustrating about the Covid-19 pandemic.

And so, when the PAP Government made it optional for people to wear masks outdoors, it felt like Singapore was finally taking a big step towards post-pandemic life.

Aside from that, the PAP Government also eased other SMMs. The limit for social gatherings was doubled to 10 people, safe-distancing was no longer mandatory for mask-on situations, and up to 75 per cent of employees were allowed to return to the office.

A few days earlier on March 24, 2022, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced during a televised address that the number of daily new cases had been on the decline.

“Week on week, the ratio is now around 0.8. At this rate, the number of daily infections will halve in about three weeks.”

The PAP Government worked hard to get these numbers down, tightening not just our SMMs locally but at our international borders too. It undertook a nationwide vaccination drive. It ramped up healthcare capacity all around.

But that was not all.

Everyone helped Singapore keep healthy

“We only achieved this through everyone’s collective effort,” said PM Lee of Singapore’s low Covid-19 ratio and rates.

“You understood the mission and did your part — trusted the government, accepted sound medical advice, abided by Safe Management Measures patiently and responsibly, got yourself and your loved ones vaccinated, organised yourselves to help one another, and self-tested with ART kits, and self-isolated if you tested positive.”

PM Lee gave special mention to businesses and essential workers for keeping Singapore’s economy and social services going. They coped with supply chain and manpower disruptions, staying resilient so that Singapore could emerge stronger from the pandemic’s darkest days.

He commended healthcare workers as well.

“You made tremendous sacrifices, at a heavy personal cost. Pulling long shifts, day after day, week after week, since the start of the pandemic, returning to work on rest days to cover for colleagues who caught the virus, putting up with all the safety measures at the hospitals, and risking exposure as you cared for infected patients,” said the Prime Minister.

“Because of you, we have maintained some semblance of normalcy in the past two years.”

Easing done in a measured way

The PAP Government’s easing of SMMs, while major, was a measured one. No sense in a complete relaxation of rules, like elsewhere in the world.

“In judging how far and fast to ease restrictions, we are very mindful not to stress our healthcare workers and system to breaking point. We must not place an impossible burden on the healthcare worker and endanger many Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 patients who urgently need treatment,” explained PM Lee.

“At the same time, we must weigh the cost of stringent SMMs on businesses and the economy, and their impact on children needing to learn, youths yearning to interact, families seeking to bond, and communities striving to connect.”

Fast forward to today, it seems this major yet measured step is paying off; we are increasingly learning to live with Covid-19 as an endemic disease.

The pandemic isn’t over yet. But the world and Singapore are getting there.

Here’re the end-March 2022 eased SMMs. They’re a good look back; we’ve come a ways since them:

Top photo by Victor He on Unsplash