NEA begins enforcement of safe distancing measures at hawker centres
The National Environment Agency (NEA) began enforcement operations for safe distancing at Singapore's 114 hawker centres yesterday and it will continue throughout the month-long ban on eating out.
Footfall was brisk at Marsiling Mall Hawker Centre during lunch hour as NEA officers made their rounds, with most customers adhering to the safe distancing regulations, while hawkers rehearsed for the new normal of takeaways and no dine-ins that will kick in tomorrow.
Officers also gave out advisories about keeping one metre apart from the next person and not sitting on marked seats.
Mr Tang Choon Siang, deputy director of NEA's environmental public health operations department, told reporters that in about an hour's work, NEA officers encountered seven or eight people who were not observing these safe distancing regulations.
"But they all complied once our officers told them, so that's quite encouraging," he said.
He added that NEA officers will hand out written warnings and take down the particulars of those who continue to defy the regulations. Stricter enforcement measures may be imposed when necessary, he said.
Anyone convicted under the Infectious Diseases Act can be fined up to $10,000 or jailed for up to six months, or both, for the first offence.
From tomorrow until May 4, stricter "circuit breaker" measures to throttle the local transmission of Covid-19 in Singapore will apply, including a ban on eating out, with the food and beverage business bracing itself for a further hit to revenues.
Third-generation hawker Aslam Akbar Ali, 37, who runs Aysha Food Corner at Marsiling Mall Hawker Centre, is choosing to look on the bright side.
"We normally get a lot of takeaways anyway, and these have increased by about 30-40 per cent in the last week or so, including orders we get from food delivery services," said Mr Aslam, who sells roti prata and mee goreng.
"Here at Marsiling Mall, we are also quite close to where a lot of residents live, and as hawkers I don't think we have as much reason to worry as other institutions or sectors who are worse off. At least we can remain open and do business."
The NEA will be monitoring and controlling entry and exit points at some markets from tomorrow to avoid overcrowding. The move comes after it noticed an average increase of 25 per cent in crowd numbers at 80 per cent of Singapore's 83 markets over the weekend.
The number of patrons who can enter the market at any time will be decided based on the market's size and the space available.