Impractical to raise dine-in caps for hawker centres: NEA, MOH
It is impractical to increase dine-in caps for hawker centres and coffee shops to five vaccinated customers, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the National Environment Agency (NEA) yesterday.
Currently, up to two people are allowed to dine together at these places, regardless of whether they are vaccinated.
Such premises are open and porous, with a mixture of dine-in and takeaway customers, the authorities noted in their response to a Facebook post earlier yesterday by Makansutra founder K.F. Seetoh.
"If we require vaccination status checks at hawker centres and coffee shops, it will add to the burden of already struggling operators and stallholders," MOH and NEA said.
Mr Seetoh had said it is ironic that the cap on dining at coffee shops and hawker centres remains at two, while it is set at five for air-conditioned foodcourts.
Since Aug 10, Singapore has allowed people to dine in at restaurants in groups of up to five if all of them are fully vaccinated.
Mr Seetoh said the two-person cap for hawker centres and coffee shops is damaging the livelihoods of hawkers. It is causing stalls to close, costing them jobs, impacting their ability to pay bills and damaging their mental health, he added.
He also said he knew of as many as 150 hawkers who left the business last year, and that he gets information of closures "almost daily".
In response, MOH and NEA said dining in is a high-risk activity as masks are removed and people are interacting in close quarters. An unvaccinated diner who gets Covid-19 is at high risk of falling very ill, the authorities added.
While food and beverage outlets that cannot check patrons' vaccination status are not allowed to have any dine-in customers, the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19 had decided to allow dining in for two - regardless of vaccination status - at hawker centres and coffee shops as a concession, they said.
The authorities also said the Government has been providing support to hawkers through policies such as the Market and Hawker Centre Relief Fund.
The occupancy rate for cooked food stalls in centres managed by NEA has remained high at an average of about 97 per cent, they added.