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At a Glance: Singapore's Key Measures in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Apr 07 2020 | by OrionW

The Singapore Government has announced a range of programmes and measures in response to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.  This article summarises some of the key announcements as of 7 April 2020.

COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act 2020

The COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act 2020 (the Act) became law in Singapore on 7 April 2020.  The key provisions of the Act include:

  • Temporary relief to those who are unable to fulfil contractual obligations and those who are in financial distress due to COVID-19.  
  • Modifications to the Bankruptcy Act, the Insolvency, Restructuring and Dissolution Act 2018, the Companies Act, the Limited Liability Partnerships Act and the Business Trusts Act which will increase the monetary thresholds for bankruptcy and insolvency, lengthen the given period to respond to creditor demands, and relieve directors from their obligations to prevent their companies trading while insolvent.  However, these are only temporary reliefs to financially distressed individuals, firms and businesses.
  • Measures for conducting meetings as provided for in any written law or legal instrument including, among others, alternative arrangements such as the convening of a meeting through electronic communication, video conferencing, tele- conferencing and similar means.
  • Measures to conduct court proceedings, such as through remote communication technology, i.e. live video feed, or live television link or live audio link.
  • Measures on the remission of property tax, which proposes regulation that would not only benefit the property owner but also the tenants and lessees of the property.
  • Orders restricting the movement of people from their residences, prohibiting social gatherings, mandating physical distancing when outside residences and restricting the use of sports and recreation facilities.

According to the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), the Act will provide temporary protection for SME loans with specific security in Singapore.  However, MAS indicated that lenders’ contractual rights are unaffected and warned SMEs that they may still incur late charges and high interest which could cause them to pay more in the future.

Updated Guidance on General Meetings

The Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA), MAS and Singapore Exchange Regulation (SGX RegCo) issued updated guidance for issuers on safe distancing measures when conducting general meetings (Guidance).  In the Guidance, issuers are allowed to either defer Annual General Meetings to after 30 April 2020 or, if they choose to proceed before the set date, they may be allowed to use “live” webcast and allow proxy voting, among other alternative arrangements.

Support Measures from MAS and the Financial Industry

Prior to the adoption of the Act, MAS, the Association of Banks in Singapore, the Life Insurance Association, the General Insurance Association and the Finance Houses Association of Singapore announced a package of measures to help ease the financial strains caused by the COVID-19 pandemic on individuals and SMEs.  The package aims to help individuals meet their loan and insurance commitments, support SMEs with continued access to bank credit and insurance cover, and to ensure interbank funding markets remain liquid and well-functioning.

Suspension of Activities at Workplace Premises

On 3 April 2020, the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) issued a guidance on the suspension of activities at workplaces which will take effect from 7 April 2020 to 4 May 2020.  Essential services and their related supply chains and service providers are exempted from the suspension.  A list of activities which will be allowed to continue to operate can be found at https://covid.gobusiness.gov.sg/.

Official Social Media and Online Channels for COVID-19 News

The Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) uses Gov.sg social media and online channels to announce important COVID-19 updates and messages to the public.  In order to disperse the updates and messages as widely as possible, MCI launched a new Gov.sg Telegram channel (go.gov.sg/govsg-telegram) and a refresh of the Gov.sg Twitter channel (go.gov.sg/twitter), in addition to the enhancement done to the Gov.sg WhatsApp overseas service account (go.gov.sg/whatsapp-overseas).

Capability Partnership Programme

The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) is accelerating partnerships through its Capability Partnership Programme (CPP) in order to roll out content projects or capabilities training initiatives which will strengthen the capabilities and increase the competitiveness of Singapore’s media SMEs during this turbulent period.  Some of these projects are slated to begin this April 2020.  IMDA will continue to work with its CPP partners – CJ ENM Hong Kong, HOOQ, Tencent-VS Media, Viacom International Media Networks and Facebook – on expediting the programme.

For More Information

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Disclaimer: This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal advice.