Singapore: Singapore on Tuesday allowed some businesses to reopen, as the country took its first steps towards resuming the economic activity following the coronavirus outbreak, despite a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases among foreign workers staying in crowded dormitories. Also Read - Canadian & Spanish Student Cycle 100km in Singapore, Raise Funds for Mumbai Migrants

The city-state on Tuesday reported 884 new coronavirus cases, taking the total number of infections to 24,671 since the disease emerged here in January. Also Read - Meet Robodog SPOT Who Doesn't Bark But 'Politely' Tells People in Singapore Park to Maintain Social Distancing | Watch

The vast majority of the cases are work permit holders residing in foreign worker dormitories, said the Health Ministry in its preliminary daily update. Also Read - Vande Bharat Mission: 1st Flight Carrying Stranded Indians From Abu Dhabi Returns, Repatriation From Singapore to Start Today

Three cases are Singapore citizens or permanent residents (foreigners). Businesses such as food manufacturers, barbers, specific food retail outlets resumed their operations.

These were among the businesses closed from April 22 subject to various restrictions as part of stricter measures to contain the spread of COVID-19.

These restrictions include the use of a government-backed digital check-in system SafeEntry to record all entries and exits, including of employees and visitors, for digital contact tracing, The Straits Times reported.

For instance, SafeEntry must be installed at hair salons and barbers as people are likely to be in close proximity in enclosed spaces for prolonged periods.

Other businesses allowed to reopen include cake and dessert shops, laundry services, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) halls as well as home-based food businesses.

Singapore is in talks with other countries on whether travel restrictions can be lifted with safeguards in place, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said.

If there are sufficient precautions such as COVID-19 testing before departure or upon arrival, Singapore is prepared to work bilaterally with countries and regions that are ready to put in place such safety measures, he said. Discussions on how to reopen national borders are ongoing, he informed.

If these sorts of safeguards are put in place and agreed upon potentially, we can have green lanes for travellers to travel between countries, the Channel News Asia quoted Wong, who is also co-chair of Singapore’s COVID-19 multi-ministry task force, as saying

“In these discussions, all countries are quite mindful and quite careful that we have to ensure that it’s safe for us to have this exchanges, so therefore I think it’s important for us to put in place safeguards both locally in our own country as well as in the partnering countries if we were to establish these arrangements.”

The infection rates in countries, the types of precautions in place, the effectiveness of infection control and safe distancing measures, as well as the countries’ testing regimes will also be taken into consideration, said Wong.

Singapore announced on March 22 that it would not allow short-term visitors to enter or transit through the country in view of the heightened risk of imported COVID-19 cases.