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OPINION

Rumbling tummies in Singapore

The dining privileges at Bloomberg's New Economy Forum divide an irritated nation

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What price networking over a meal? This question has caused an unusual degree of local tension in Singapore as the city state prepares to welcome the Bloomberg New Economy Forum, which will be the largest attempt at a big in-person conference since the pandemic began.

To widespread frustration, Singaporeans remain under tight domestic restrictions even as the country begins to open up to the world through vaccinated travel lane initiatives. People may only dine at restaurants in groups of two, a system that is rigorously imposed even among families who arrive together and sleep in the same house at night. Only two people are permitted to visit a home in any given day.

But at the forum, due to take place from November 16 to 19, delegates (or any group with a delegate among them) will be permitted to dine in groups of five at conference venues or some other designated restaurants in the city. Delegates must undergo daily pre-event testing, but don’t have to serve quarantine.

Symbolism

Gan Kim Yong, the trade and industry minister who has become the public face of Singapore’s Covid response, says that “eating is one of the key features in such events” and has said the forum is symbolically crucial.

“The