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Barbecue pits in popular parks fully booked for weekend on first day of reopening

Singaporeans looking to return to barbecuing in parks will have to wait for a while.

Barbecue pits in popular venues, such as East Coast Park, are fully booked for the weekend, with Friday (March 18) being the first day that these outdoor social spaces for public use were reopened after being shuttered since last year.

Checks on the AXS booking system by The Straits Times showed that barbecue pits in East Coast Park are fully booked from Friday to Sunday.

The pits at Pasir Ris Park and Changi Beach Park have been snapped up for the rest of the weekend.

The National Parks Board (NParks) told ST it has processed about 310 barbecue pit bookings and 1,090 camping permits for the weekend.

Slots for the following weekend are also in high demand, with 250 barbecue pits booked and 740 camping permits issued for March 25 to 27 across all parks with the amenities.

Campers have also rushed to secure weekend permits to camp on offshore islands. Island campsites will be reopened from March 29.

As at March 17, the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) has issued 24 permits for Eagle Lodge on St John's Island and 68 permits for campsites on Lazarus Island and Pulau Hantu Besar.

Most of the permits for weekends and public holidays were snapped up, with "only a few weekend slots left available" from March 29 till June 18.

The reopening of barbecue pits and campsites comes after Singapore announced its simplified Covid-19 safe management measures on March 11 due to the receding threat of Omicron and falling number of infections.

Since Tuesday, Singaporeans can apply for camping permits and use of barbecue pits in gardens and parks managed by NParks via the AXS system.

HDB residents can also book barbecue pits in their estates through their town councils.

Bookings for campsites on offshore islands were also opened on Tuesday.

Users of the facilities must comply with the prevailing permitted group size limit - up to five people are allowed at each barbecue pit or campsite.

On Friday, several Singaporeans woke up early to secure their choice campsites.

Self-employed driver Lim Poon Khoon, 55, arrived at the campgrounds in Pasir Ris Park at 7am to select a good camping spot for his family.

Mr Lim said: "Our family loves camping, and we've been waiting for this for a long time. We've camped here regularly, especially on every school holiday.

"We plan to stay for two nights, three days, and to kayak and fish later in the day."

At East Coast Park, families were spotted setting up barbecues and pitching tents on the campgrounds.

IT support specialist Kamsani Komeng, 41, and his two children were there.

Mr Kamsani, who usually camps with his children during the school holidays, said: "We heard the news and thought it would be a good time to come on the first day."

He added: "This camping thing is good and releases stress. There is no overcrowding. The malls are always crowded."

Civil servant Alex Ong, 44, said the move to reopen campsites and public barbecue pits was "long overdue".

Mr Ong, who was at East Coast Park with his wife, two children and a friend, said: "We've been waiting a couple of months for the pits to reopen, but when we got news that the measures might be lightening, we monitored the news more closely, and we're glad to hear that they were opening during the school holidays."

He added: "If anything, these outdoor activities should continue to be allowed even if we need to tighten (the rules) again due to an escalating Covid-19 situation because their risk of spreading Covid-19 is lower than (that of) indoor activities."

But some people like educator Nur Muliani, 34, said restrictions, especially for barbecue pits, should remain.

Madam Muliani, who was at East Coast Park with her husband and two children, one of whom is four years old and not vaccinated against Covid-19, said: "We're still excited but I feel that it would be difficult to ensure people remain in groups of five at a barbecue because it will be hard to stop people from mixing."

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