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Self-employed persons to get $9,000 in cash under Supplementary Budget to cope with Covid-19 outbreak

SINGAPORE – Self-employed persons will each receive $9,000 in cash to help tide them over the coronavirus pandemic, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in his Supplementary Budget speech in Parliament on Thursday (March 26).

Mr Heng said he would set aside $1.2 billion for the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme, which will disburse $1,000 a month for nine months to eligible self-employed persons.

“Over the last few weeks, I received feedback from the labour movement and many self-employed persons calling for stronger support for the self-employed, who have less income security and whose livelihoods may be worse affected during this period of economic uncertainty,” he said.

“This group has been harder to reach, as they work in diverse industries, many occupations, with varying working arrangements. They include taxi and private-hire car drivers, real estate agents, media and art freelancers and sport coaches.”

Mr Heng added that he would also provide sustained support for the self-employed to train and upskill during the downtime amid the Covid-19 economic slowdown.

He will set aside an additional $48 million to extend the Self-Employed Person Training Support Scheme, which was first introduced earlier this month.

Under the initial scheme, Singaporean and permanent resident freelancers receive a training allowance of $7.50 an hour when they undergo eligible courses over the next three months.

Mr Heng said he would raise the hourly allowance to $10 with effect from May 1 and extend the scheme to December this year.

The enhanced allowance is on top of existing training subsidies which cover up to 90 per cent of fees, he said. Trainees will also be able to tap their SkillsFuture credit.

More details on the schemes will be forthcoming from the Ministry of Manpower soon.

“Looking ahead, we will see how we can better support self-employed persons in strengthening their financial security,” said Mr Heng. “We will study this carefully.”

He added that lower-wage workers, including self-employed ones, will have their incomes further augmented under the Workfare Income Supplement Scheme.

During his Budget speech last month, he announced that Singaporeans on Workfare last year would receive a one-off special cash payment amounting to 20 per cent of their payout last year, with a minimum payout of $100.

He will be increasing this payout to $3,000 per recipient.

To qualify for Workfare, Singaporeans must be 35 and older and earn a gross monthly income of not more than $2,300, among other criteria.

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With eye on election, Trump in high-stakes balancing act over coronavirus response

WASHINGTON, March 28 (Reuters) – President Donald Trump offered a preview of his re-election campaign playbook last year when he visited the building site of a multi-billion-dollar cracking unit in western Pennsylvania, hailed as one of the largest construction projects in the country.

To Trump, it was a pitch-perfect example of a booming economy.

Except today, the site sits largely empty, after the coronavirus outbreak forced oil company Royal Dutch Shell to halt construction. The project’s thousands of workers are now unemployed, adding to the nearly 3.6 million Americans who filed for jobless benefits in the last two weeks.

The tension between wanting to keep workers safe from infection and trying to get back to business as soon as possible illustrates the fine line Trump must walk as he floats the idea of reopening the U.S. economy in defiance of the advice of public health experts.

Seven months before he faces re-election, Trump must find a balance between trying to stop the economy from spiraling into a severe recession while appearing to act decisively to contain a still-expanding health catastrophe.

Trump has been under increasing pressure to ease back economic restrictions from his Republican base, who consistently have been less alarmed than Democrats about the virus, which has infected more than 85,000 Americans and killed more than 1,200.

A March 18-24 Reuters/Ipsos poll shows 76% of Democrats agreed that the coronavirus is a “serious threat to me and my family” compared with 63% of Republicans.

Many workers at the Shell site in Potter Township, 40 miles (65 km) east of Pittsburgh, live paycheck-to-paycheck and are eager to work. But some are concerned about Trump’s suggestions that the U.S. economy could be re-opened by Easter on April 12.

“If they called me and said come back to work Monday, I would not go. Not until I feel it’s safe for me and the other workers,” said Jonathan Sailers, a 34-year-old union insulator who wraps pipes at the site.

For a graphic on calendar of each state’s Democratic nominating contest and its allocated delegates, please click tmsnrt.rs/37bDD2f

BOTTOM LINE

Prior to the outbreak, a soaring stock market and strong employment stood at the heart of Trump’s message that he should be re-elected in November, with the president even suggesting that even if voters didn’t like him, he helped their bottom line.

For the moment, that argument has evaporated.

Trump’s campaign says he is focused both on safeguarding the health and safety of Americans and getting the economy humming again.

“The president is correct that our nation was not built to be completely turned off for long periods of time and that such dormancy would cause a great many long-lasting problems,” said Trump spokesman Tim Murtaugh.

Chris Wilson, a Republican pollster, said the coronavirus crisis is actually an opportunity for Trump but he must handle it correctly.

“If we wind up coming through this relatively intact, I think Trump will get a huge amount of credit from voters,” Wilson said.

Trump has already seen a bump in his approval ratings, by 4% to 44% since the health crisis, according to the Reuters/Ipsos poll. But the rise is modest for a president confronting a national crisis: Former President George W. Bush’s approval rating shot up by 39 points to 90% in the days following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to Gallup polling service.

The numbers have also climbed as Trump took the outbreak increasingly seriously, appearing on television and warning people to stay home, after at first playing down the threat.

If he flips that message, strategists and experts say, he runs the risk of losing supporters, particularly if the death toll continues to grow.

“There’s normally a rallying effect around the president in the early days of the crisis, and Trump’s clearly benefiting from that,” said Alex Conant, a former top aide to Republican Senator Marco Rubio, a 2016 presidential candidate.

Delegate tracker and results tmsnrt.rs/2wfM3Yz

“As days turn into weeks and months, the president’s polling position could weaken if people think the country is losing the fight.”

Shell says it has no timeline for restarting construction at the Potter Township site.

In the meantime, workers are struggling to pay their bills, said Ken Broadbent, business manager for a Pittsburgh-based steamfitters union that supplied the project with hundreds of workers.

“It’s still way too early,” he said. “We just don’t know how long this will last. The longer it lasts, the more it’s going to hurt.”

For a graphic on where the candidates stand on key issues, please click tmsnrt.rs/2ughVeT

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Trump 'considering quarantine on New York' to stem virus spread

US president says he is considering a two-week enforced quarantine on New York and parts of New Jersey and Connecticut.

US President Donald Trump has said he was considering imposing a two-week quarantine on New York state and parts of New Jersey and Connecticut as part of efforts to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Trump said on Saturday that he was considering placing a two-week enforced quarantine on New York, which he called a “hot spot”. The quarantine might also apply to parts of the states of New Jersey and Connecticut.

More:

  • US Senate approves $2 trillion coronavirus rescue bill

  • Who gets what from the $2 trillion US virus aid package

  • Undocumented in US have few protections from virus fallout

“This would be an enforceable quarantine,” Trump said from the White House. “I’d rather not do it, but we may need it.”

Later, the US leader confirmed the idea on Twitter. A decision “will be made, one way or another, shortly,” he said

But New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who spoke with Trump earlier on Saturday, said this issue did not come up in those discussions.

“I don’t even know what that means,” Cuomo told a news briefing. “I don’t know how that could be legally enforceable. And from a medical point of view, I don’t know what you would be accomplishing,” Cuomo said.

“But I can tell you, I don’t even like the sound of it. Not even understanding what it is, I don’t like the sound of it,” the governor said

The number of coronavirus cases reached over 52,000 in New York, the US epicentre of the outbreak, Cuomo said on Saturday.

The sum of total known coronavirus cases in the US soared to 115,842, eclipsing the toll the disease has taken on China and Italy. At least 1,709 people have died in the country, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Asked whether the military would be deployed to enforce any new quarantine in New York, Trump said. “We’re not going to need much. And the people in New York, they understand it better than anybody and they’ll be great.” Trump added that he planned to discuss the issue with Cuomo later in the day.

Trump appeared less certain about an earlier pledge to try to reopen US businesses by April 12. “Well, we’re going to see what happens,” Trump said. “We want to get our country back to work.”

Trump said that while most companies were assisting in combating the epidemic, he said he may have to invoke the Defense Production Act to compel one or two companies to produce further medical supplies.

“We have a couple of little problem children, and we’ll use it where we have to,” he said. “But, overall, I tell you, the private free enterprise system is at work like nobody has seen in a long time.”

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IATA urges G20 to support airline industry

DUBAI (Reuters) – The International Air Transport Association on Thursday urged the group of the 20 major economies to act quickly to prevent irrecoverable damage to the airline industry that has been shaken by the coronavirus crisis.

In an open letter, on the day G20 leaders were meeting, the world’s largest airline body asked governments to provide, or facilitate financial support for the industry.

“The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic around the globe and the resulting government-mandated border closings and travel restrictions have led to the destruction of air travel demand,” IATA Chief Executive Alexandre de Juniac wrote in the letter.

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Boris Johnson back to work this morning after coronavirus diagnosis

In an extraordinary turn of events, the Prime Minister was given a midnight diagnosis confirming he has Covid 19 after developing symptoms on Thursday afternoon.

And an hour after Mr Johnson told the public on Friday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock revealed he is also self-isolating after catching the virus.

The two men saw each other in person on Tuesday for the weekly Cabinet meeting and were both in the Commons chamber on Wednesday for Prime Minister’s questions. 

It will raise fears the contagion could have spread further at the very heart of the government team leading the response to the killer virus.

The Prime Minister is now confined to the flat above Number 11 and is using the Chancellor’s office to work from.

Staff are leaving him meals and work at his door and knocking to alert him.

Full video conferencing equipment has been installed that will allow Mr Johnson to continue working. 

He will continue to lead the 9.30am so-called war cabinet briefing of the most senior ministers and officials leading the response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Daily press conferences updating the nation on the latest developments are expected to continue but will be fronted by other Cabinet ministers until the PM’s seven day isolation is over. 

Mr Johnson, 55, broke the news of his diagnosis to the nation with a video posted on social media.

He said: “I want to bring you up to speed on something that’s happening today which is that I’ve developed mild symptoms of the coronavirus. That’s to say – a temperature and a persistent cough.

“And, on the advice of the chief medical officer, I’ve taken a test. That has come out positive.

“So I am working from home. I’m self-isolating. And that’s entirely the right thing to do.

“But be in no doubt that I can continue, thanks to the wizardry of modern technology, to communicate with all my top team to lead the national fightback against coronavirus.”

Mr Johnson’s partner Carrie Symonds, who is pregnant with their first child, is no longer living in their flat above No 11.

Mr Johnson was tested on the advice of chief medical officer (CMO) Chris Whitty after developing a cough and a temperature.

But his infection raises concerns about the health of other key figures in the battle against the virus, including Professor Whitty himself.

The PM was flanked by the CMO and his chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance at a press conference in Downing Street on Wednesday. 

No 10 insisted all guidelines about maintaining a two metre distance were met at all times.

Sir Patrick said the Prime Minister was using “digital tools” to keep leading the country’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.

“We’re in the phase now where anyone who gets symptoms should self-isolate, that’s what the Prime Minister did, self-isolated,” he added.

“He’s been tested positive; anyone who gets symptoms should self-isolate.

“And he’s managing meetings using the appropriate digital tools to be able to do that and still running the Government’s response to coronavirus.”

Mr Johnson chaired a meeting of his Cabinet on Tuesday and although most ministers contributed by video link, Mr Hancock was one of only three people to physically take part, along with Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill and the CMO.

The Health Secretary said in a video message that he will be self-isolating until next Thursday.

“Fortunately for me the symptoms so far have been very mild so I’ve been able to carry on with the work driving forward the UK response,” he added.

Mr Hancock said a “massive thank you to everybody in the NHS, working in social care and right across the board on the response”.

“I’ll be continuing to do everything I can to get our carers the support that they need. And I’ll be doing that from here but with no less gusto.”

“And then from next Thursday, once I’m out of self-isolation and I hope with no more symptoms, then I’ll be able to get back stuck in and into the office where necessary.

“But the truth is that all of us can learn that working from home can be really, really effective

On Wednesday, Mr Johnson appeared at the Despatch Box in the Commons chamber for the final session of Prime Minister’s questions before Parliament broke up for a month.

Home Secretary Priti Patel and Chief Whip Mark Spencer sat either side of the premier but left space between them.

Mr Johnson continued to work on Thursday evening while waiting for the results of the test, holding a call with businesses involved in the manufacturer of ventilators.

Any new companies offering to make ventilators would have to have their prototype checked, Downing Street said.

The PM’s spokesman said: “There is a real cross-Government effort going on to get these ventilators online as soon as possible.

“The PM spoke with industry again. We are doing all we can to make progress.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak does not have any symptoms and is working from home at his family residence.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was among politicians from across the political divide to offer well wishes to Mr Johnson.

He said: “I wish the Prime Minister a speedy recovery and hope his family are safe and healthy. Coronavirus can and does affect anyone. Everyone be safe. Our own health depends on everybody else.”

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Trump, Michigan governor trade jabs as state's virus cases mount

DETROIT (Reuters) – President Donald Trump and Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan took fresh swipes at each other over the spread of the coronavirus, escalating a war of words as the state braces to become one of the hardest hit by the pandemic.

Whitmer sent a letter to Trump on Thursday seeking a major disaster declaration for Michigan, which along with other hotspots for the coronavirus has been struggling to cope with a surge in hospitalizations and a shortage of supplies and tests for the illness.

She challenged Trump to stand with the people of Michigan in a tweet on Thursday night, after he criticized her handling of the coronavirus spread and said she relied too much on the federal government.

“I’ve asked repeatedly and respectfully for help. We need it. No more political attacks, just PPEs, ventilators, N95 masks, test kits. You said you stand with Michigan — prove it,” Whitmer said.

Trump said on a Fox News interview earlier that he has had a “big problem with the young, a woman governor” from Michigan.

“I mean, she’s not stepping up. I don’t know if she knows what’s going on, but all she does is sit there and blame the federal government. She doesn’t get it done, and we send her a lot,” Trump said.

He demurred on whether he would approve the disaster declaration, saying “we’ll have to make a decision on that”.

The number of U.S. coronavirus infections climbed above 82,000 on Thursday, surpassing the national tallies of China and Italy.

Michigan has reported 2,856 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 60 deaths, although Detroit’s mayor said “thousands and thousands” in the state had the disease but were not getting tested.

There has been speculation Whitmer, 48, a rising Democratic Party star, could be picked as a vice presidential running mate by the eventual Democratic nominee to take on Trump for the White House in November’s election.

She has deflected any discussion of a possible vice presidential selection. But the spat with Trump, along with her delivery of the Democratic response to his State of the Union address in February, has elevated her national profile.

Adding Whitmer to the Democratic ticket could help the party recapture Michigan in November. Trump’s upset victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016 was aided by his surprise victory in the state.

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Govt will do whatever it takes to help Singaporeans through Covid-19 outbreak: PM Lee

SINGAPORE – While the economic challenge caused by the coronavirus outbreak is very grave, the Government will do “whatever it takes” to stabilise the economy, preserve jobs and help companies stay afloat, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Friday (March 27).

“Whatever it takes to do that, we will do them,” Mr Lee told reporters as he spoke on the $48.4 billion Supplementary Budget that Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat unveiled on Thursday.

“We want to see people through this; we are under no illusions that this is the end of the story because nobody can tell what lies ahead,” Mr Lee said in an interview at the Istana.

Giving a sense of the fast-changing situation, Mr Lee said the Government had thought the measures contained in the Budget presented on Feb 18 would buy a few months of time for it to assess the situation and put together a second package.

“But we did not expect within one month, the picture was totally changed – the health picture was totally changed, the economic picture was totally changed,” he said. 

This is why the Government also completely changed its policy response and set aside a further $48.4 billion to support businesses, workers and families – a Supplementary Budget nearly seven times the initial $6.4 billion worth of measures to cushion the Covid-19 fallout, said Mr Lee.

While the combined $55 billion to combat the coronavirus is intended to see the country until the end of the year, Singaporeans must be psychologically prepared for things to worsen in the coming months, he said.

In such a scenario, the Government is prepared to tap on the reserves again.

“We have the dry powder,” he said. “If we need to do more, when we need to do more, we will do that down the road.”

Mr Lee noted that economies around the world have been drastically hit as the flow of goods and people reach a standstill. As an open economy, Singapore is particularly hard hit, especially in industries such as aviation, tourism and hotels, he added.

“It is going to last quite a long time: it is not a V-shaped down dip, it is not a U-shaped dip,” he warned.

“If you are lucky, you can sustain it at a diminished level for quite a long time; if you are not lucky, it will keep on going down, and some pieces (of the economy) are going to have a lot of difficulty, just staying in existence.”

The Government’s aim is very clear, he said – to protect jobs and help companies stay in business by reducing their costs. Key industries like aviation will be helped so they can “continue in semi-suspended animation, but able to come back to life when the opportunities come”.

“There will be ups and downs,” he said. “Therefore, it is critical that we go into this eyes open, (with) strong leadership, good government, united and determined to see this through.”

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Factbox: What's in the $2.2 trillion U.S. coronavirus rescue package

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday approved an unprecedented $2.2 trillion stimulus package to alleviate the economic devastation of the coronavirus pandemic and sent it to President Donald Trump to sign into law.

Here are major elements of the plan. Cost estimates are provided by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

DIRECT PAYMENTS TO AMERICANS

Direct payments of up to $1,200 each to millions of Americans, with additional payments of $500 per child. Payments would be phased out for those earning more than $75,000 a year. Those earning more than $99,000 would not be eligible.

Estimated cost: $290 billion

ENHANCED UNEMPLOYMENT AID

Payments for jobless workers would increase by $600 per week. Laid-off workers would get those payments for up to four months. Regular benefits, which typically run out after six months in most states, would be extended for an additional 13 weeks.

Self-employed workers, independent contractors and those who typically don’t qualify for unemployment benefits would be eligible. The government would also partially make up wages for workers whose hours are scaled back, in an effort to encourage employers to avoid layoffs.

Estimated cost: $260 billion

SMALL BUSINESS LOANS AND GRANTS

Loans for businesses that have fewer than 500 employees could be partially forgiven if they are used for employee salaries, rent, mortgage interest and utility costs. The bill also includes emergency grants for small business.

Estimated cost: $377 billion.

AID TO AIRLINES, LARGE BUSINESSES

The bill sets up a fund to support a new Federal Reserve program that offers up to $4.5 trillion in loans to businesses, states and cities that can’t get financing through other means.

Companies tapping the fund would not be able to engage in stock buybacks and would have to retain at least 90% of their employees through the end of September. They would not be able to boost executive pay by more than $425,000 annually, and those earning more than $3 million a year could see their salaries reduced.

The fund would be overseen by an inspector general and a congressional oversight board. The Treasury secretary would have to disclose transactions.

Businesses owned by President Donald Trump, other administration officials or Congress members, or their family members, would not be eligible for assistance.

Loans are set aside for airlines, air cargo carriers, airline contractors and “businesses important to maintaining national security,” widely understood to be Boeing Co (BA.N).

Total cost: $504 billion

GRANTS FOR AIRLINES

Airlines, air cargo carries and airline contractors also could get grants to cover payroll costs. They would have to maintain service and staffing levels, and would not be able to buy back stock or pay dividends. The U.S. government could get stock or other equity in return. Executive pay above $425,000 a year would be frozen for two years, and those who earn more than $3 million annually would see their salaries reduced.

Total cost: $32 billion

MONEY FOR STATES, HOSPITALS, EDUCATION

– $150 billion for state, local and Native American tribal governments

– $100 billion for hospitals and other elements of the healthcare system

– $16 billion for ventilators, masks and other medical supplies

– $11 billion for vaccines and other medical preparedness

– $4.3 billion for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

– $45 billion in disaster relief

– $30 billion for education

– $25 billion for mass-transit systems

– $10 billion in borrowing authority for the U.S. Postal Service

– $1 billion for the Amtrak passenger rail service and $10 billion for airports, which are experiencing a drop in passengers

TAX CUTS

– A refundable 50 percent payroll tax credit for businesses affected by the coronavirus, to encourage employee retention. Employers would also be able to defer payment of those taxes if necessary. Cost: $67 billion

– Loosened tax deductions for interest and operating losses. Cost: $210 billion

– Suspension of penalties for people who tap their retirement funds early. Cost: $5 billion

– Tax write-offs to encourage charitable deductions and encourage employers to help pay off student loans. Cost: $3 billion

– Waiving of federal tax on distilled spirits used to make hand sanitizer

INCREASED SAFETY NET SPENDING

– $42 billion in additional spending for food stamps and child nutrition

– $12 billion for housing programs

– $45 billion for child and family services

OTHER ELEMENTS

– A ban on foreclosing on federally backed mortgages through mid-May, and a four-month ban on evictions by landlords who rely on federal housing programs.

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Factbox: 'Mr. No': Meet the U.S. congressman who requested a formal vote to delay the coronavirus bill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Representative Thomas Massie enraged President Donald Trump and leaders of Congress by trying to delay a planned Friday voice vote on a $2.2 trillion coronavirus economic rescue plan, drawing calls from the White House to throw him out of the Republican Party.

Even before the 49-year-old drew Trump’s ire on Twitter, he had been a thorn in the side of both parties for so long that he’s nicknamed “Mr. No.”

“Throw Massie out of Republican Party!” Trump tweeted on Friday.

Massie unsuccessfully sought to have a member-by-member vote in the House on the coronavirus bill, but officials used House rules to deny his request, allowing it to pass with a simple voice vote.

“I came to here to make sure our republic doesn’t die by unanimous consent in an empty chamber, and I request a recorded vote,” Massie said on the House floor before his proposal was rejected.

“I am not delaying the bill like (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi did last week,” Massie wrote on Twitter earlier. “The bill that was worked on in the Senate late last week was much better before Speaker Pelosi showed up to destroy it and add days and days to the process.”

Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, a Democrat who is usually diplomatic in his manner of speaking, wrote on Twitter that “Congressman Massie has tested positive for being an asshole. He must be quarantined to prevent the spread of his massive stupidity.”

Trump volleyed back, “Never knew John Kerry had such a good sense of humor! Very impressed!”

Here are some facts about Massie:

– Massie was first elected in 2012 with an assist from the conservative tea party movement, from a solidly Republican district in northern Kentucky along the Ohio River. An engineer by training who had built his own company on inventions he made, he beat two establishment Republicans in a party nominating contest, along the way.

– In his first House vote in 2013, Massie opposed the re-election of John Boehner as speaker. Massie aligned with conservative and libertarian Republicans who formed the Freedom Caucus in 2015, but did not join the caucus.

– By 2014, Massie had voted “no” so many times on legislation that Politico dubbed him “Mr. No.” He opposed about a third of measures that came up in his first year, voting against large and small bills sponsored by both parties, from defense spending legislation to a bill to award a gold medal to golf star Jack Nicklaus.

– Massie opposed many bills on a cost basis. He joked once that the buttons lawmakers push to register their votes on the House floor – which are labeled “yea” and “nay” – should be relabeled “spend” and “don’t spend,” USA Today reported.

But he voted in 2017 for hefty tax cuts promised by Trump, although they were projected to widen the deficit. “It is irresponsible to increase spending and decrease taxes, which is why I consistently vote to decrease spending and decrease taxes,” he said at the time.

– Massie voted twice against the election of former House Speaker Paul Ryan, a fellow Republican. Last year he was one of six Republicans to vote against his party’s candidate, Kevin McCarthy for speaker; Massie voted instead for Republican Jim Jordan, a founding member of the Freedom Caucus.

– Sometimes Massie has worked across party lines on civil liberties issues, such as by opposing bulk data collection by the government. Last year, Massie was the only Republican to vote against a measure rejecting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS, movement, which opposes the Israeli occupation and policies toward Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

He was one of three House Republicans to vote against relief from Hurricane Harvey in 2017, and one of three Republicans that year to vote against additional sanctions on North Korea. One of the three, Representative Justin Amash, later left the party to become an independent.

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Govt to offer relief from legal obligations for cancelled large gatherings due to Covid-19

SINGAPORE – People who may have to forfeit deposits because of cancelled large gatherings amid the coronavirus outbreak are set to receive support and relief from legal obligations.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, in unveiling a $48 billion Supplementary Budget on Thursday (March 26), noted that providing relief from legal obligations that have arisen because of the Covid-19 situation is also an “important and complementary” part of help measures.

“It is no fault of theirs that they cannot perform these obligations. For example, people may have paid deposits for a big gathering that now cannot go ahead. It is not their fault that the gathering cannot go ahead,” he said in Parliament.

“Should the deposits be simply forfeited? That won’t be right.”

Mr Heng, who is also the Finance Minister, said that the Government is studying the issue, and that Law Minister K. Shanmugam will present a set of measures next week to deal with this matter.

Major events that were called off or postponed in Singapore in recent months due to the coronavirus outbreak include golfing tournament HSBC Women’s World Championship, IT Show 2020, the Income Eco Run, the annual DBS Marina Regatta and concerts such as those by K-pop group GOT7 and Taiwanese singer Jam Hsiao.

More cancellations may be in store amid tightening rules on large gatherings to reduce the risk of the virus spreading in Singapore.

On March 20, the Ministry of Health said that all events and gatherings with 250 or more people in attendance at any one time must be suspended until June 30. Even if the events are smaller, those attending them will have to be placed a safe and sufficient distance apart.

Measures were stepped up on Wednesday when the Government decided to close all entertainment venues such as bars and cinemas from Thursday (March 26) at 11.59pm until April 30. Religious services are also suspended and establishments such as malls, museums and restaurants must reduce crowd density to stay open.

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