SINGAPORE: More thundery showers are expected over Singapore in the second half of April, said the Meteorological Service Singapore on Wednesday (Apr 15).
Singapore is also expected to experience warm weather for the rest of April, with daily temperatures hitting a high of 35 degrees on some days.
"A brief intrusion of a dry air mass extending from the South China Sea to the equatorial Southeast Asia region is expected to bring dry and warm weather to Singapore," the Met Service added in its fortnightly outlook.
Rain will come in the form of short thundery showers with frequent lightning. The showers are expected between the late morning and afternoon on most days, with wet weather extending into the evening on one or two of these days.
Overall, the rainfall for April is expected to be above-normal over most parts of the island.
The last two weeks of March were drier than the first fortnight of April. But it continued to stay warm in April, with the daily maximum temperature exceeding 34 degrees Celsius on most days.
LONDON - British foreign minister Dominic Raab is set to announce on Thursday (April 16) that the lockdown in the country will stay in place until at least May 7.
Raab, deputising for Prime Minister Boris Johnson who is recovering from Covid-19, earlier on Monday said he did not expect the government to make any changes to the lockdown measures currently in place until it was confident they could be made safely.
The death toll from Covid-19 in British hospitals rose to 11,329 on Monday (April 13), the fifth-highest globally and a senior scientific adviser to the government has said the country risks becoming the worst-hit in Europe.
The government has had to defend its response to the outbreak, with complaints of insufficient testing and protective kit for medics and questions about whether Johnson, before he fell ill with Covid-19, was too slow to impose a lockdown.
“Amidst this sobering death toll, there are also some positive signs from the data that we are starting to win this struggle,” said Raab.
“But we still have a long way to go,” Raab said. “We’re still not past the peak of this virus.”
The government’s panel of scientific advisers is due to review the evidence on the effectiveness of social distancing measures this week, but Raab signalled that was unlikely to result in any easing of restrictions.
“We don’t expect to make any changes to the measures currently in place at that point, and we won’t until we’re confident as we realistically can be, that any such changes can be safely made.”
That moment could be several weeks away. The Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance said he expected the number of daily deaths from coronavirus to continue to rise this week, then to plateau for two to three weeks before falling.
Johnson left London’s St Thomas’ Hospital on Sunday after spending a week there, including three nights in intensive care. He said “things could have gone either way” for him while he was hospitalised.
He is now recuperating at Chequers, his official country residence, with his pregnant fiancee Carrie Symonds. It is not clear when he will return to work.
HUMAN V ECONOMIC COST
There has been widespread sympathy for him over his illness, but in his absence the government faces daunting trade-offs between the needs of the health service and of the economy, with national morale also at stake.
Finance minister Rishi Sunak has told colleagues Gross Domestic Product could shrink by up to 30% this quarter because of the coronavirus lockdown, The Times newspaper reported, adding Sunak was pushing for restrictions to be eased.
The comments were neither confirmed nor denied by officials.
On the other hand, a relentless flow of grim news ensured that the human cost of the outbreak remained in sharp focus.
The government’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, told the news conference 13.5 percent of care homes for the elderly across the country had reported coronavirus outbreaks, including 92 individual homes in the past 24 hours alone.
In County Durham in northern England, the Stanley Park care home confirmed that 13 of its residents had died after displaying symptoms of Covid-19.
In Edinburgh, Scotland’s top medical officer asked the public not to delay relatives’ funerals in the hope that social distancing measures would soon be lifted, because such delays would risk overwhelming mortuaries and funeral homes.
At the Downing Street news conference, Raab was defensive when asked if the government should have introduced the lockdown sooner and whether to do so would have saved lives – a recurring question as the death toll has soared.
“I don’t think it is clear. I don’t think those comparisons (with other countries like South Korea) are like for like because of where we are on the curve,” he said.
Asked to apologise to National Health Service staff who have reported a lack of personal protective equipment on the frontline, Raab did not do so.
From getting caught at a roadblock to getting fined for cycling, all it took was one photo of a summons for the rumour mills to start churning.
The truth? The summons was issued to a man who failed to maintain safe distancing at a bubble tea shop in Tiong Bahru Plaza on April 12.
The unidentified 30-year-old had bumped into a friend at the shop and struck up a conversation, forgetting to maintain a safe distance of 1m.
An enforcement officer from Enterprise Singapore spotted the pair and issued summonses to them, slapping them with a $300 fine each.
Admitting that he had indeed breached safe-distancing guidelines, the man said that he was willing to accept the punishment doled out to him.
However, the matter didn't end there.
A photo of his summons surfaced on the internet, quickly becoming gossip fodder and fuelling several fictional accounts.
One person claimed that the man was fined for giving a friend a ride home — the pair were stopped at a roadblock and written up as the addresses on their identification cards did not match.
In a statement posted to Facebook yesterday (April 13), the police clarified that they have not conducted roadblocks specifically to enforce safe-distancing measures.
Roadblocks are typically set up to detect offences such as drink-driving.
So far, they have not punished any motorists for flouting safe-distancing measures at a roadblock, they said.
However, the police may take enforcement action if they come across road users breaking the rules.
Another version of the story said that the man was fined after visiting a food court without a mask on.
While the Ministry of Health has advised the public to wear masks while they are out and in close contact with others, it is currently not an offence.
However, those not wearing masks may be denied entry to supermarkets, convenience stores, malls, pharmacies and wet markets.
Others purported that the man had been cycling with more than one family member.
This is allowed under the current circuit breaker measures, MP Alex Yam said in a Facebook post yesterday (April 13).
Claiming ignorance, the man said he had no idea how the photo of the summons started circulating online.
The stories spreading online are all "fake news", he added, urging members of the public not to believe them.
In response to confusion over what the public can or cannot do during the circuit breaker period, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli wrote on Facebook: "The general rule of thumb is to ask ourselves: do I need to do this? If it is not urgent or a necessity, you are strongly advised to stay home."
Masagos announced on April 11 that first-time offenders caught flouting circuit breaker measures would be fined instead of receiving a warning from April 12.
The stiffer penalty was put in place after enforcement officers reported that people were not taking the measures seriously.
SINGAPORE: ComfortDelGro taxi drivers will soon help to deliver RedMart groceries as Singapore sees a rise in demand for delivery services amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
More than 1,000 drivers from the taxi company have indicated their interest in the new role, said ComfortDelGro and Lazada in a media release on Tuesday (Apr 14).
“The collaboration will help expand RedMart’s existing delivery fleet as Singapore goes into an unprecedented period of physical distancing to stem the spread of COVID-19,” they added.
The drivers will start these delivery jobs by the end of April, after undergoing training provided by RedMart. The online grocery platform is owned by e-commerce giant Lazada.
As part of the trial pilot, drivers will pick up orders from RedMart’s warehouse at Alexandra Terrace and deliver them to locations within the town areas, said the companies.
The announcement of the collaboration comes after the Government temporarily eased point-to-point regulations to allow taxi drivers and private-hire car drivers to participate in a delivery service trials to help address the surge in demand for home deliveries.
Chief operating officer of ComfortDelGro Taxi, Mr Tommy Tan, said the COVID-19 situation has been “incredibly challenging” for the drivers.
“With the big mismatch in demand and supply for food and groceries, we reached out to RedMart. We have started the onboarding of drivers and have seen strong interest amongst our drivers. This will be a win-win-win situation not just for our drivers, for RedMart but for residents as well,” he added.
RedMart said it started experiencing a “growing surge of orders” in February.
“With ComfortDelGro, we are assured of a clean fleet of vehicles, as well as a pool of drivers who can help ease the delivery capacity. Under these protracted conditions, we are grateful to have ComfortGelGro’s fleet available, to scale our delivery operations as required," said executive vice president of Lazada eLogistics Singapore Jamil Khan.
RedMart has been trying to cope with the increase in online orders.
Earlier this month, it announced that it will temporarily reduce the range of products available and prioritise daily necessities such as rice, flour and eggs.
Delivery slots will also be assigned based on location, with only specific days and times available for each address.
SYDNEY - Australian police have spoken to the captain of a cruise ship which disembarked hundreds of passengers infected with the coronavirus in Sydney, as part of a homicide investigation into the country’s deadliest single source of infection.
The Ruby Princess owned by Carnival Corp has become a flashpoint of public anger in Australia after authorities granted the ship permission to disembark its passengers last month without health checks.
About 400 of the passengers later tested positive for the coronavirus and 15 have died, more than a third of Australia’s 51 deaths from COVID-19, prompting accusations the ship’s crew concealed the extent of sickness on board when they requested permission to disembark.
Investigators boarded the ship at a port south of Sydney, interviewed the captain and took electronic logs as evidence, New South Wales (NSW) state Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said.
“They spoke to the captain of the ship, who was extremely helpful,” Fuller said in a televised news conference on Thursday.
“Ships have a black box very similar to that of international planes, and that and other evidence has been seized for further investigation.”
About 1,000 crew of various nationalities remain on board the ship.
Cruise ships have been held responsible for about a fifth of Australia’s roughly 6,000 coronavirus cases. Globally, more than 1.5 million people have tested positive to the coronavirus, including about 87,000 deaths.
The investigation comes as Australia battles to keep the brakes on its rate of infection over the Easter holiday period, with the government imploring people to stay at home and cancel trips to traditional vacation spots this weekend.
The percentage growth of new cases in Australia has slowed to low single digits, from the 25% daily growth last month, but Canberra says tight restrictions on people’s movement could stay in place for at least six months.
The restrictions include a broad order for people to stay home except for essential work or to exercise and buy food, and police have said they will use the threat of on-the-spot fines to stop people travelling or socialising over the Easter long weekend from Friday to Monday.
“We can’t lift our foot off the pedal, we need to stay vigilant, make sure we clamp down on the community-to-community transmission,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters.
Australian media have reported that some state governments are considering loosening the restrictions which have forced many businesses in the hospitality, retail, transport and education sectors to shut.
But Berejiklian said the government would “rely on data in the next couple of weeks to give us a signal what we should be doing moving forward”.
Late on Wednesday, the federal government approved a package to subsidise the wages of six million people, or a quarter of the population, at a cost of A$130 billion (S$115 billion).
Man charged with breaking into coffee shop, setting fire to tissue a day before circuit breaker started
SINGAPORE: A day before circuit breaker measures shuttering shops kicked in, a man allegedly broke into a coffee shop, stole cash and set fire to a stack of tissue paper.
Mohamed Sarib Abdul Aziz, 52, was charged on Thursday (Apr 9) over these offences, as well as for breaking into a house and stealing a bicycle.
He is accused of stealing a bicycle from a bicycle bay at Block 38 Circuit Road at about 11.35pm on Apr 5.
Hours later, between 1am and 1.30am on Apr 6, he allegedly climbed over a fence at nearby 41 Jalan Melor in order to commit theft.
Minutes later, between 1.45am and 3am, he allegedly broke into the U1 Coffeeshop at Block 83 Macpherson Lane.
He entered by the back door and stole S$2,610 in cash, charge sheets state.
Sarib is also accused of committing mischief by fire by burning a stack of tissue paper at the coffee shop.
The police said in a statement that Sarib was identified and arrested two days after he allegedly broke into the coffee shop.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Julius Lim, commander of Bedok Police Division, said: "At a time when more businesses are shuttered due to the COVID-19 situation, break-ins like this are particularly egregious."
The circuit breaker was announced on Apr 3 and is expected to last from Apr 7 to May 4. It restricts the movement of people here, encouraging all except workers in essential services to stay home, in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The police said in their statement that they have stepped up crime-fighting efforts during the circuit breaker period.
They advised the public to secure their premises and refrain from keeping large sums of cash at commercial premises.
Sarib will return to court on May 6, after the circuit breaker period ends.
If convicted of house-breaking to commit theft, he can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined.
For mischief by fire, he could be jailed for up to seven years and fined. He could be jailed for up to three years, fined, or both for theft.
SINGAPORE: People who repeatedly flout the stricter safe-distancing measures as part of a “circuit breaker”to curb the spread of COVID-19 will face a fine or be charged in court.
These measures include a ban on dining in, as well as on social gatherings in public or private areas.
First-time offenders will get a stern written warning. Anyone who commits a second offence will be fined S$300, while a third offence will lead to the person being charged in court.
The Government will be “stepping up on enforcement” of the measures, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli wrote on Facebook on Thursday (Apr 9).
“From today, our enforcement officers will immediately take down the particulars of anyone found to be in breach of elevated safe distancing measures,” he said.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday reiterated calls for people to stay at home.
“We are on the third day of our ‘circuit breaker', but still far too many public gatherings are happening. The number of new COVID-19 cases is increasing sharply, and we must comply with the stay home measures very strictly,” Mr Lee wrote on Facebook.
“If your loved ones do not understand how serious this is, please try hard to help them understand,” he added.
“The more we take liberties with the stay home measures, the longer these painful measures will have to last. I know we all want to go back to normalcy, but this can only happen if we take things seriously.”
Mr Masagos echoed the Prime Minister’s comments and said there are many people who are not taking the COVID-19 situation seriously.
“Some are even uncooperative, insisting on dining in at eating places, not maintaining a safe distance when queuing in markets, and gathering in parks to eat or exercise together,” he added.
“Remind your family members, especially the elderly, to stay at home. They are the most vulnerable, and we need to protect them. Remind also the young, who are out of school during this period, to meet their friends online, and not gather in person.
“Young or old – none of us are immune.”
10,000 ADVISORIES IN FIRST 2 DAYS
On Wednesday – the second day of the circuit breaker – more than 3,000 written advisories were issued to people flouting the rules. Over the first two days, about 10,000 written advisories were handed out.
The majority of these were at hawker centres, markets and across Housing and Development Board (HDB) public spaces.
To tackle the issue, HDB is working with town councils to close public spaces such as playgrounds, sports courts and void deck seating areas, said the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources.
Crowd management measures will be expanded to cover around half of all markets in Singapore by Friday to control the spread of COVID-19, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said in a news release on Wednesday.
Fifteen markets have put in crowd management measures like controlled entry and exit points as of Wednesday. These measures will now be rolled out to include 25 other markets which are “relatively popular and would attract crowds especially on weekends”, NEA said.
RIO DE JANEIRO - Despite stay-at-home orders aiming to protect people from the new coronavirus, many of Rio de Janeiro's famous beaches have been buzzing with surfers seeking to catch the season's first big swell.
That has thrown surfers such as Guilherme Faria headlong into a public debate about the legal limits on outdoor sports - in his case, a question that will be soon be decided by a judge.
The 22-year-old said he was catching 9-foot curlers on Copacabana Beach on Sunday morning when a policeman with a whistle between his teeth hauled him out of the water and down to the station.
"Unfortunately, surfing is now a crime," said Faria, who received a court summons - seen by reporters - after his booking. "I hope I don't end up with a criminal record for something as silly as that."
A few hours later, even with the threat of a fine, Faria and his board were back in the Copacabana surf.
Like thousands of Rio's famously sporty locals, Faria could not resist the call of the outdoors. The esplanade lining the city shore is packed with joggers. Groups of spandex-clad bicyclists zip up and down the city's serpentine mountain roads.
On March 17, city and state officials implored residents to stay at home, nominally closing beaches and city parks as the coronavirus pandemic tears through Latin America's third-largest city.
Rio is Brazil's second-most infected state, according to the Health Ministry, which reported 12,056 confirmed coronavirus cases across the country as of Monday.
Some athletes have complied, citing the danger of spreading the disease en route to beaches. Many argue that sports-related injuries could divert vital medical resources away from the coronavirus fight. The debate has also roiled other solo sports, from skiing to climbing.
"There are different opinions among different sports associations. New guidelines come out every week," said Ana Carolina Corte, the official doctor for the Brazilian Olympic Committee. She added that some sports could still be done "alone, without crowds, without running alongside other people."
Even legal decrees have been subject to debate.
The governor of Rio state, for instance, banned "spending time at beaches," as some might describe a surfer bobbing in the water, but not a roller skater gliding past.
Yet some surfers have argued they merely cross over the sand to enter the ocean or even enter the water via rocky outcroppings.
Still, many athletes acknowledge their concerns pale next to the challenge Brazil faces. State governors, including those in Rio de Janeiro, have warned that underfunded public healthcare systems could soon collapse.
Bruno Bocayuva, a surfing journalist in Rio, has given up surfing for weeks in favour of jumping rope, doing push-ups and keeping in shape any way he can.
"I'm really missing that sensation of being in the water, of paddling, of catching a wave, of connecting with nature through surf, which provides such an intimate connection. But I know this is the moment to think of the collective good," he said.
"I'm letting this wave pass, to surf the next one in the near future."
Perhaps due to its high visibility or anti-establishment vibes, surfing has emerged as unique target of ire across the region.
In Costa Rica, a video on social media last week showed a police officer apparently firing a gun in the direction of 28-year-old law student Rafael Villavicencio as he left the water.
Reporters could not verify the video's authenticity. The head of the Costa Rican police said they had opened an investigation into the incident.
"Although it's true that the surfers weren't following orders, that doesn't mean an official should act in that way," said Villavicencio's lawyer, Rafael Brenes.
Argentina's media heaped scorn on one surfer for entering the country from Brazil with boards on the roof of his car. The man later violated a mandatory quarantine, according to police.
Argentine President Alberto Fernandez called him "an idiot" on national television.
Similarly, Peruvian authorities raised eyebrows when they nabbed two surfers in a highly publicised operation involving a police helicopter.
In Brazil, a surf-crazed nation where urban beaches are often clogged before and after work, the debate has taken an acrimonious and even political turn.
President Jair Bolsonaro has berated Rio Governor Wilson Witzel for closing beaches, calling the move "dictatorial."
Bolsonaro's son Eduardo, a congressman from Sao Paulo state, just down the coast, argued in a Facebook post on Thursday for a decree to allow surfing that conforms with social distancing.
With or without a decree, many surfers are simply doing what they can to dodge attention - and each other.
"I came early to avoid this total isolation controversy," said Ricardo Bacão, a 65-year-old surfer from Rio's Ipanema neighbourhood, as he exited the water on Sunday morning.
"In the same way that people run, they hike, they ride bikes, somebody can grab a board, leave the house, go directly to the water, paddle and go home."
Two youths may now have to pay the price for their ill-thought-out prank after the police arrested them over a case of public nuisance.
In February, the pair of 17-year-olds filmed a video in an NTUC FairPrice supermarket, where one of them took sips from drinks from the chilled beverage section and placed them back on the shelves.
The clip was posted on one of the youths' private Instagram account with the caption "How to spread Wuhan", referring to the coronavirus pandemic which first broke out in Wuhan, China.
It was later reposted on social media by his acquaintance, sparking an online furore.
Their actions caused public alarm and concerns, especially since the clip was circulated soon after Singapore raised its DORSCON status to Orange on Feb 7.
While the youths had made a public apology at the time, it was not enough to appease the public who slammed them for their insensible act and called for severe punishment.
Others expressed worries that the video would lead others to mimic the irresponsible stunt.
The police said today (April 8) that the pair will be charged in court tomorrow with the offence of public nuisance with common intention.
If found guilty, they face a jail term of up to three months, or a fine of up to $2,000, or both.
The police reiterated that they will not tolerate any actions that stoke undue public alarm, especially during this period of heightened sensitivity.
Singapore's youngsters have been copping some flak for their nonchalance towards safe distancing. But are the rest of us walking the talk?
Just one day into Singapore's circuit breaker month, crowds were spotted congregating at a Jurong West market and breaching safe distancing guidelines.
In the interests of safe distancing, a reader of the Chinese evening daily said she had pre-ordered some of her groceries from a store owner at Jurong West 505 Market & Food Centre.
But when she turned up to collect her purchases at 8am yesterday (April 7), she was shocked to see that the market was as crowded as a typical day.
Most of the store owners wore face masks but some customers, including the elderly, did not.
"When they were queueing up, they stood very close to each other and did not follow safe distancing of one metre," the 38-year-old said in Mandarin. "Some of them didn't leave after buying their groceries and stayed to chat."
One man even sat down to eat at the food centre to eat, she added.
A video shared on Facebook page All Singapore Stuff, reportedly taken yesterday, also showed snaking queues at the food centre.
Under the circuit breaker measures introduced by the government, non-essential businesses have to close from April 7 to May 4.
Members of the public are also advised to only leave the house for essential matters such as buying food and groceries.
While food and beverage stores are allowed to remain open, they can only accept takeaway or delivery orders. Dining in is not permitted.
Despite the tighter restrictions, Singaporeans are still out and about — over 7,000 written advisories were issued to members of the public who breached safe distancing measures yesterday.
Most of the violations took place in hawker centres and markets, the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) said last night.
Enforcement officers will "take action" against those who loiter and mingle in groups in public areas instead of staying at home, or refuse to adhere to safe distancing measures, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said the same day.
Under the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Bill, which was passed yesterday, first-time offenders can be fined up to $10,000 and jailed up to six months.
Reporters has reached out to MEWR for comment.