Majority staying home but some continue to gather, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Majority staying home but some continue to gather

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Minister warns stern action will be taken against people and businesses that flout circuit breaker measures

As Singapore hunkered down into the second day of its circuit breaker month, many streets and malls remained almost deserted as the majority of people stayed home.

With school closures starting yesterday, families had to take to new routines as both parents and children started working and studying at home together.

But people young and old continued to gather in groups yesterday, and some exercise groups met in the parks, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli, whose ministry oversees the enforcement of safe distancing rules, said last night. He described this as very worrying and warned that stern action will be taken.

"A good number still do not observe safe distancing when queueing, especially in the markets. These are where clusters of infections can be born," he said in a Facebook post as 142 new cases were reported, almost all local.

A new law rushed through Parliament on Tuesday that took effect the same day prohibits social gatherings of any size, whether in private or in public spaces. Visiting hawker stalls and supermarkets to get food and necessities, as some did yesterday, is allowed.

More than 3,000 written advisories were issued as of 8pm last night, fewer than the 7,000 issued a day earlier. Most were in hawker centres, markets and across public spaces in HDB estates.

Mr Masagos added that from today, "if Enforcement Officers come across persons gathered in public, they will issue them written warnings immediately, before dispersing them".

Subsequent infringements will incur a fine or prosecution in court.

Fifteen markets, including Tiong Bahru Market and Geylang Serai Market, have set up controlled entry and exit points for crowd management, and some saw long orderly queues. These measures will also be rolled out to 25 other markets managed by the National Environment Agency (NEA) or NEA-appointed operators by tomorrow. This is about half of all markets islandwide.

In a joint statement yesterday, Enterprise Singapore (ESG) and the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) said they had conducted enforcement checks on close to 10,700 businesses on Tuesday and found 10 businesses that remained open despite providing non-essential services. They were instructed to cease operations and if they continue to flout the rules, ESG and STB will impose fines and suspend their operations.

Under the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act, first-time offenders will face a fine of up to $10,000, imprisonment of up to six months, or both. Second-time offenders can be fined up to $20,000, jailed up to 12 months, or face both penalties.

The stricter safe distancing measures have also made homes a little more crowded.

For parents with younger children, dealing with home-based learning on top of work has also been challenging.

Senior manager Jonathan Heng, 42, said in addition to school assignments, his son Caleb, eight, has to complete daily online modules, while his other son, Zachary, four, has two half-hour online live classes a day. "While they are online, either my wife or I have to be with them. They're constantly asking questions. Our work takes a back seat."