COVID-19: False case of safe-distancing fine for cycling
In April 2020, the Singapore government implemented stricter social distancing measures in light of the worsening COVID-19 situation. At the start, enforcement officers would only give out written advisories to first-time offenders. As of 12 April 2020, individuals who are caught flouting the measures will be issued a $300 fine instead of a warning. The Straits Times reported that 200 fines have been issued on 14 April 2020. In tandem with these implementations, false claims of safe-distancing fines have surfaced on social media.
Origins of the rumours
In early April 2020, a message containing the following two rumours had been circulated on Whatsapp. The individual behind the message alleged that their close relations have been fined for allegedly flouting the social-distancing measures. These rumours were also seen on Facebook groups. This entry covers the first rumoured case.
Rumour 1: Family of three fined for cycling
The first claim alleged that a family - consisting of the father and his two daughters - were fined for cycling together outdoors. The message implied that the family had broken the law as only two people from the same household were allowed to be together outdoors.
The second claim alleged that a pair of friends who were in the same vehicle had been fined after a check at a police roadblock revealed that they lived in separate locations.
Rumour 1: Debunked by the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR)
As of 14 April, there are no restrictions on how many individuals from the same household are allowed in public. Hence, the claim that "a maximum of two persons" from the same household are allowed outside is false. The only regulation as stated on the official Gov.sg website is as such:
(i) Any outdoor activity must be done with your immediate family members.
As of 14 April 2020, the official stance by MEWR is as such:
(i) Exercising in nearby parks is permitted.
(ii) Individuals and family members are allowed to exercise by walking, jogging and cycling.
Singapore’s Cycling Federation’s safety guidelines
Given this incident, the Singapore Cycling Federation also released a statement on their Facebook page. They reminded cyclists that all cycling outdoors must be done alone or with individuals living in the same household. The Federation also emphasised that it would be preferable not to cycle during this period.
Referencing an academic paper by researchers from Netherlands' Eindhoven University of Technology and Belgium's KU Leuven, the Federation issued the following safety guidelines:
(i) Cyclists should observe at least a four-metre distance from each other because of the air currents generated, also known as a slipstream.
(ii) That distance can be increased to 20 metres if the cyclist is travelling at high speeds.
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