Crowds return to the Central Business District with Covid-19 measures eased
The Central Business District regained a semblance of normalcy on Tuesday (April 26) morning, with all workers allowed to return to the workplace following a major relaxation of Covid-19 rules.
While it was not quite business as usual, commuters and office workers told The Straits Times it feels like things are getting back to how they were two years ago.
Gone are the lines of people waiting outside office buildings and malls to do SafeEntry check ins. Instead, there were the familiar long queues at coffee shops where workers queued to get their morning brews.
Trains on the North-South Line and Downtown Lines, which ran at two minute intervals during the morning peak, were crowded. But commuters were not packed shoulder-to-shoulder like they were before the pandemic.
On the feeder bus service that this reporter took to the MRT station, the bus driver had to tell passengers to move to the back of the vehicle to allow more people to board. There was also the usual tailback at Bishan Road, but traffic appeared to be relatively smooth otherwise.
Mr Ryan Lim, 29, who has been back in the office about 70 per cent of the time for the past one to two months, said he will be returning to the workplace every day starting this week.
As part of Singapore's move to lower its disease outbreak response one level from orange to yellow, all workers may now return to the workplace - an increase from the previous limit of 75 per cent.
"The queues are getting longer and the trains are getting full. It was more quiet last time," said Mr Lim, who works at a bank.
He said there are pros and cons to working from home as some enjoy the flexibility, but he said prefers to be in the office.
"I feel it is easier to discuss things with my colleagues. I just feel more productive," he added.
Administrative worker Irene Lim, 58, said she thought it was great that more people were back in the office. "We've been working from home for a while so it is nice to come back and meet my colleagues," she said.
Ms Lim, who took the MRT at about 8am from Tampines, said the train was packed. She estimates that passenger volumes were at about 70 per cent of pre-Covid-19 levels.
"(Raffles Place) is like back to normal already," she added. "It is super crowded."
In 2019, public transport ridership hit at an all-time high of 7.69 million trips a day.
It fell significantly in 2020 amid the circuit breaker and various Covid-19 restrictions. Although bus and train ridership recovered in 2021 as restrictions were eased to average 5.26 million a day, it was still the second lowest since 2010.
As part of the major relaxation of Covid-19 rules, group size limits and safe distancing requirements have also been removed from Tuesday.
This comes as daily Covid-19 infection numbers continue to fall and have stabilised.
From Tuesday, most venues will no longer require the public to check in using the TraceTogether app or token as part of vaccination-differentiated safe management measures as well.
Mr Adrian Chua, 64, and his group of six other friends went to an eatery for coffee and a meal after cycling to Raffles Place from East Coast Park.
But with the throngs of office workers now returning, the retiree said he and his friends may avoid the CBD in future even though it has been a regular haunt.
"Now it is easier for us to get together, but it is also a problem because it is so crowded."
- Additional reporting by Jessie Lim