Buzz returns as hawker centres, coffee shops open to groups of 5 from different households, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Buzz returns as hawker centres, coffee shops open to groups of 5 from different households

Hawkers and coffee shop stall owners saw the buzz return to their venues on Tuesday (Nov 23) morning, as patrons from different households were once again allowed to dine in groups of up to five.

As part of the initial run of venues that will allow such groups, 11 hawker centres and seven coffee shops were identified as being able to control access, as well as conduct checks on the vaccination status of their customers.

Hawkers The Straits Times spoke to saw more life on Tuesday morning compared with the weeks before, when only those from the same household could dine in together in groups of up to five.

"You can feel the difference today, it's more busy," said Madam Ng Bee Leng, 57, whose family has been running Holland Village Homemade Soyabean at Holland Village Market and Food Centre since the 1970s. "More parents have been bringing their kids here. I hadn't seen them in so long."

She added: "I was surprised they chose (our hawker centre) because we're so small, the whole market has only 21 stalls and business has been very slow since they closed the (open-air and double-storey) car parks a few years ago."

It was a similar case at Kampung Admiralty Hawker Centre in Woodlands.

Madam Ainun Hasan, 50, a full-time employee at Warong Lontong Fatimah stall, said: "The hawker centre feels a lot livelier today. Usually it's very quiet, especially since people order takeaway. Now that they allow five people to dine in, there are more families dining in, or even elderly people with their friends."

ST visited several hawker centres and coffee shops across the island in areas such as Hougang, Woodlands and Holland Village on Tuesday morning and just before lunch.

Some, like Kampung Admiralty Hawker Centre in Woodlands and Beo Crescent Market in Tiong Bahru, were almost fully occupied with the breakfast and lunch crowd respectively. Others, like Holland Village Market and Food Centre and and Ci Yuan Hawker Centre in Hougang, were only half occupied in the morning, while coffee shop The Patio in Sembawang was near empty just before lunch.

At these selected hawker centres and coffee shops, there were a maximum of two entry points, which had additional reinforcements such as iPads to scan patrons' TraceTogether apps and tokens, and additional cordons to direct traffic flow.

Fully vaccinated people or those who are eligible for dining at hawker centres were also given a sticker for identification.

Different hawker centres had different coloured square stickers, which were slightly bigger than a $1 coin.

However, those who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated can only purchase food to take away.

Safe distancing officers dressed in white National Environment Agency (NEA) polo shirts and red armbands, as well as safe distancing ambassadors in red shirts were seen patrolling the various hawker centres.

Patrons ST spoke to welcomed the chance to dine together again with their friends.

Three retirees were spotted chatting together over cups of coffee at Holland Village Market and Food Centre.

One of them, who wished to be known only as Mr Siu, 67, said that the trio would meet regularly at the food centre for their morning coffee before the pandemic struck.

Another member of the group, who declined to be named, told ST: "Because the restrictions have relaxed a little, instead of going to each other's houses we decided to come here because it's midway from everyone's house.

"We also chose to come here early this morning to avoid the crowd for safety reasons."

More hawker centres and coffee shops will join the list of approved venues that can allow groups of five from different households by the end of this month.

The NEA and Singapore Food Agency on Saturday said that the remaining hawker centres under NEA and NEA-appointed operators will have entry and vaccination checks by Nov 30, while coffee shops can come on board when they have put in place the necessary control measures.