Larger groups of families to dine in on first day of relaxed rules
When she heard that larger gatherings would be allowed from Tuesday (March 29), Mrs Veronica Ong quickly made plans to eat out with her family and friends.
The last time the 72-year-old ate in a restaurant with a group of more than five people at the same table was more than a year ago, and she was afraid curbs may be reintroduced.
"In case the tables turn, and we won't be able to gather and eat out. These days, you never know what will happen.
"I hope the Government can give us some bonding time with our families and friends," said Ms Ong, who will be having dinner at Tung Lok Signatures in Clarke Quay on Tuesday night with nine other people, including family members and some friends.
The retiree said: "Eating at home is different, the ambience is different. It's great to eat out at the same table together.
"When you split tables, it is hard to enjoy the food because you have to order a small portion and you have to order the same dishes for each table."
From Tuesday, groups of up to 10 fully vaccinated people will be allowed to dine in at food and beverage (F&B) establishments, including hawker centres and coffee shops, where vaccination-differentiated safe management measures checks have been implemented.
Eateries that do not have such checks can seat in smaller groups of up to five fully vaccinated people, but random spot checks will be conducted to ensure that people are abiding by the rules.
The Straits Times checked out eateries in Paya Lebar, Eunos, Ang Mo Kio, Bishan, and the central business district at lunch time, and found that 90 per cent of the diners were in groups of five or smaller.
Those in larger groups of more than five were mainly colleagues or family members.
Ms Irene Wong, who is in her 50s, was having lunch at shopping mall Paya Lebar Quarter with two of her friends.
She said she is not intending to make plans for outings in larger groups for now, preferring to play it safe instead.
"We're still very conscious as the virus is still circulating within my family, maybe we'll have more big group outings when the situation is better."
The Covid-19 week-on-week infection ratio remained below one for the 27th straight day, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Monday in its nightly update.
But the number of daily cases in Singapore and those hospitalised had risen compared to Sunday.
Ms Nancy Teresa Ann, 38, who works in the healthcare sector, said as much as she wants to, she is hesitant to take off her mask when outdoors or to dine in with groups of more than five people.
"With the Omicron variant still present and cases still being fairly high, I'd like to still follow the same rules that were set in place before," added Ms Ann, who lives with her husband.
When Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the easing of rules on March 24, he said with more interactions, there may be another wave of cases. Other variants could also emerge.
Should the situation turn, PM Lee said Singapore may have to backtrack and tighten up restrictions again.
Student Issac Chia is excited and nervous about plans to eat at steamboat restaurant Hai Di Lao with his family of seven over the weekend.
Although they are from the same household, they had to sit at different tables in the past.
"It's been quite a while since our family has eaten out together (at the same table). My only concern is that this change would be short-lived, I hope that this is not the case," said the 18- year-old.
Meanwhile, restaurants here say they have received bookings for larger groups on the first day of the relaxed rules.
Seafood restaurant HolyCrab at Arcade @ Capitol will be expecting two groups - one for 10 people and the other for nine people.
One of its VIP rooms, which had been used as a temporary storage space has also been cleaned out and cleared to welcome larger groups, said the chef and director of the restaurant, Mr Elton Seah.
"We are definitely excited. But then again, there's a little bit of anxiety on the demand, like whether my staff can get used to serving groups of 10 people," said Mr Seah.
He will be bringing in part-timers on weekends, and is also looking to hire more people.
Meanwhile, Japanese restaurant EN Dining in the Tanjong Pagar area is expecting a group of 10 on Tuesday night, as well as smaller groups of about six people, its spokesman said.
It received calls from customers on March 24 who wanted to increase their group sizes once the relaxed rules were announced.
While restaurants are elated with the new measures, they said that removing the one-metre safe distancing between dining groups would be an added boost.
Mr Seah said: "That way we can serve more customers and we don't need to get staff to check on whether guests are following safe distancing rules.
"It would be nice to have, but for now we'll work with whatever we have."
- Additional reporting by Shermaine Ang, Fatimah Mujibah, John Elijah Gan, Cheong Chee Foong