Dealing with difficult people is part of their job
Being stared and pointed at have become a new normal for Mr Khong Chee Teck.
As an enforcement officer for the National Environment Agency (NEA) who patrols hawker centres and wet markets, the 35-year-old is used to receiving such cold treatments from the public.
Part of his daily routine is to disperse people crowding around the stalls, as many are still unclear about the one-metre safe distancing rule.
His role as a place manager at NEA’s Hawker Centres Division was expanded to ensure that members of the public comply with safe distancing measures at markets and hawker centres.
Mr Khong had to be stricter now as the measures have tightened from advisories to warnings and fines for the first offence.
He shared about how he had to issue a $300 fine to a woman who had breached the safe distancing measures by cutting the queue at a stall.
Said Mr Khong: “We stated very factually what we saw and issued the fine, explaining why we have to do this.”
He added: “It is a struggle to issue these fines, but it is for the benefit of everyone else.”
Government agencies have been allocating employees to assist as enforcement officers to support new safe distancing measures set to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Over 3,000 enforcement officers and SG Clean ambassadors are deployed daily to public places since the circuit breaker measures kicked in on April 7.
More than 200 people were caught by the authorities for not complying with safe distancing measures on Monday (April 20), while 80 did not wear a mask outside their homes, said Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli on his Facebook page.
He added that nine of these people breached the measures for a second time and will face fines of $1,000 each.
Singapore Food Agency (SFA) enforcement officer Muhd Nazri Roseli, 37, said he fined a man who violated safe distancing measures by using selling face masks on a table in a coffeeshop in Jurong East last Monday.
Things turned ugly when he asked for the man’s particulars as he grew angry and shouted vulgarities at them.
Mr Nazri said: “We had no choice but to seek the police’s assistance but even then, his verbal abuse did not stop.”
The man was issued a $1,000 composition fine as he violated the elevated safe distancing measures.
Mr Khong said while he had not met any violent patrons, his colleagues were slapped and scolded while doing their job.
There have been many examples of officers in rows with members of the public circulating on social media.
Addressing incidents of abuse against enforcement officers, Mr Masagos said that action "will be taken against these individuals and will not hesitate to do the same should there be other similar incidents".
Mr Masagos was also concerned about numbers at several markets over the weekend, such as Geylang Serai Market, where around 200 people queued to enter.
He wrote: “Why am I concerned? Because popular markets continue to be places where people gather over a prolonged period.
“If we let our guard down a moment, it is possible it could result in another CovidD-19 infection cluster.”