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Coronavirus: When will it be safe to work out at gyms or go on vacation?

Opinions differ widely on when it is safe to restart activities like working out at the gym, or going on vacation. Senior Health Correspondent Joyce Teo susses out what 15 experts and healthcare workers think.

Even as countries rush to ease lockdowns, places like Hong Kong and Melbourne have had to reimpose restrictions as coronavirus cases rise in the community.

When people gather in a big group, they can be exposed to all the people that others in the group have been exposed to. It is why public health measures such as physical distancing are going to be a way of life, possibly until a vaccine becomes widely available.

The Sunday Times asked 15 people, including infectious disease experts, doctors and nurses, when they plan to start doing 18 common activities such as eating out, going to a wedding function and shaking hands.

Although they are on the front lines of this war against Covid-19, their answers varied.

Two activities, though, are popular in this phase: 11 of the 15 seem happy to go get a haircut.

The same number also would not let the coronavirus get to the foodie in them. They are happy to eat out, be it at a hawker centre, foodcourt or restaurant, though one would do it only in phase three while three experts plan to do so only when a vaccine is available, which could be a year from now.

Singapore is now in phase two of a gradual reopening. People can now gather in groups of up to five and households can receive up to five visitors at any one time, among other rules.

Phase two started on June 19, nearly three weeks after the end of a two-month circuit breaker period.

Phase three, which will last until a vaccine is found, will start months from now, the Government said early this month. When it comes, social, cultural, religious and business gatherings or events would resume, although gathering sizes would still have to be limited in order to prevent large clusters from arising, for instance.

Seven out of the 15 indicated that they would work in an open office now, with physical distancing in place. For most, however, attending a wedding function, overseas recreational trips or watching a movie can wait.

Professor Teo Yik Ying, dean of the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, would attend a wake now, but a wedding only in phase three as this is slightly riskier due to the typical socialising and rowdier interactions common at matrimonial bashes.

Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious diseases expert at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, said he is comfortable with eating out now, but you would not find him exercising in a gym or shaking hands until phase three.

Travelling for fun will have to wait

Infectious disease expert Paul Tambyah from NUS' Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine and a senior consultant at the National University Hospital would also eat out now, though he would do so only when there are fewer people around and avoid unhygienic or overcrowded environments.

In his view, hugs are not a good idea now. "I almost never hug anyone outside the family since I was a kid. If someone hugs me in phase three, I will not run away!" he said. That is also when he would consider travelling by airplane or not wearing a mask, which he finds uncomfortable, provided those are allowed.