askST: Can I visit my grandchildren, or help take care of them?

As a circuit breaker was put in place in the past week to help break the chain of coronavirus transmission in Singapore, seniors aged 50 and above have been encouraged to avoid leaving home as much as possible. Here are some key recommendations issued by the Government and the health authorities on the precautions seniors should take.

Q Can I go out?

A As much as possible, seniors should not leave their homes. Data shows that those who are 60 and older are at far higher risk of getting very sick or dying from the coronavirus. Even those in their 50s could be vulnerable if they have underlying illnesses.

Staying in is especially important now as data suggests that the coronavirus can be transmitted by those who are not showing any symptoms, and also by aerosols from people’s breath, sneezes or coughs which can hang in the air.

While there are no regulations preventing seniors from leaving their homes, they are encouraged to keep busy with online programmes. Now might be a good time to learn how to shop online or use video calls (

You can also take virtual tours of museums as well as watch free concerts and ballet performances online, among other things (

Q If I have to leave my home, how can I keep myself safe?

A Under the elevated safe distancing measures, people who are not performing essential services can leave their homes only to get essential supplies, seek medical services and for some exercise.

If you can get your groceries or supplies delivered, you should opt for that. You should also defer non-essential medical appointments.

But if you have to go out, always wear a mask, whether it is a surgical mask or reusable mask, and avoid touching or tugging at your mask.

Also avoid touching your face, mouth and nose, and rubbing your eyes, and make sure you keep your hands clean by washing them often for at least 20 seconds each time, or using a hand sanitiser that is effective against the coronavirus.

Do not go to crowded places, and always keep a safe distance of at least 1m from others.

Q Can I go to the market or supermarket?

A You should avoid visiting the markets altogether and get other members of the household or neighbours to help with the shopping.

Grassroots groups in different constituencies and volunteer groups have also started initiatives to bring food or groceries to the elderly who live alone and need help.

If you can get your groceries delivered by buying them online or enlisting the help of a family member or younger friend, you should do so.

However, if you have to go to the supermarket or market, you must keep a safe distance from others. Follow the markings on the floor, including those at wet markets. Make sure to put on a mask and observe proper hygiene.

You can check the Space Out website to check how crowded a supermarket is before going (

As it is easy for crowds to form at wet markets, the National Environment Agency has also advised people to go just once a week; visit the market on weekdays if possible; and if you must go on weekends, make an effort to wake up early to avoid the peak period from 7.30am to 10am.

Starting from today, people will not be allowed to enter markets if they are not wearing masks.

Q Can I go to the parks or exercise outside?

A You are encouraged to exercise at home where possible.

There are online exercise videos catering to seniors with exercises that you can do at home, such as on the GetActiveTV YouTube channel.

If you have to exercise outside, find an uncrowded space in your neighbourhood and practise safe distancing from other people.

Public parks remain open, but you should only go there alone or with family members living in the same household. Do not meet friends there or linger.

Again, practise safe distancing and go straight home after your walk or run. To give you an idea of how crowded a park is before heading out, check the National Parks Board’s map (

Q Can I visit my grandchildren or can they visit me?

A To protect seniors, there should be minimal interaction between people living in different households. This means that you should not visit your grandchildren and they should not visit you.

It is natural to want to interact with your family and to be socially engaged, especially as you try to get through this difficult time. But data from around the world shows that social distancing and keeping away from each other is the best way to prevent catching the virus.

Q Can I help to take care of my grandchildren?

A Grandparents can continue to care for their grandchildren if the grandchildren stay with them throughout this month-long circuit breaker period. However, you cannot go to your grandchildren’s home daily to take care of them, nor can they be dropped off at your home daily.

That is to keep you safe, because each time you go over to them or they come to you, you are being exposed to potential infection.

There are exceptions to this rule if your children are working in essential services and need help with childcare, but they must fulfil certain criteria.

They may continue to tap on you for childcare support on a daily basis if:

a. Both parents are essential service workers and unable to work from home;

b. One parent is a healthcare professional (e.g. doctor, nurse, allied health professional, support care staff) and is unable to work from home; and

c. One parent is an essential service worker who is unable to work from home, and have a child/children below the age of three.

Q Can my children living in a different household accompany me for medical appointments?

A Yes, they can do so if there are no other alternatives, such as postponing non-essential medical appointments. But they should wear a mask and ensure good personal hygiene when with you.

Q Can my children living in a different household come to my home to help me with my daily needs?

A Yes, they can drop by your home to help with you daily needs. But they must reduce the amount and frequency of interaction with you and observe strict personal hygiene.

They should also only visit you when necessary.

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