Rental rebates for Bukit Merah hawkers after businesses affected by TB scare , Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Rental rebates for Bukit Merah hawkers after businesses affected by TB scare

Hawkers from ABC Brickworks Market and Food Centre will get a month’s worth of rental rebates from the National Environment Agency, after businesses were affected following news of a tuberculosis (TB) cluster and a subsequent mass screening in Jalan Bukit Merah.

The Tanjong Pagar Town Council will also waive a month’s worth of service and conservancy charges (S&CC) for shops located at Blocks 1, 2 and 7 Jalan Bukit Merah, as well as all stalls in the market and food centre.

The rental rebates will be credited back to hawkers, while the S&CC will be waived by the town council in March.

Chairman of the ABC Brickworks Business Association Steven Lim said stall owners will be able to get back between $100 and $2,000 in rebates depending on their monthly rental agreements, and between $100 to $200 in conservancy charges.

Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Eric Chua, who helped liaise with the agencies involved, said these measures will provide much-needed relief to the hawkers and shopkeepers during this challenging period. Mr Chua is also adviser to Tanjong Pagar GRC Grassroots Organisations (Queenstown).

This is the second time since the news of the mass screening that the hawkers at the market and food centre, as well as the shop owners at the three blocks, are receiving financial aid.

It was announced in January that they would receive $250 as a one-time cash assistance by the Queenstown Citizens’ Consultative Committee and the Central Singapore Community Development Council.

The measures were introduced after businesses suffered lower footfall, following reports in January that 10 TB cases were found to be part of a Jalan Bukit Merah cluster that first surfaced in 2022.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) held a mass screening exercise in Jalan Bukit Merah, which was carried out between Jan 11 and 15. This was to identify any undetected active cases and prevent further transmission.

Screening was mandatory for residents and workers at Blocks 1 and 3 in Jalan Bukit Merah, ABC Brickworks Market and Food Centre, and Thong Kheng Seniors Activity Centre @ Queenstown as their potential risk of exposure was higher.

Voluntary screening was offered to people who were at lower risk of exposure, such as those who visited the market and food centre, or Blocks 1, 2 and 3 for more than 12 hours in a month between November 2021 and January 2024, and former residents and tenants of Blocks 1 and 3.

On Feb 8, MOH said that 2,548 individuals were screened, of which two people were diagnosed with active TB disease and were started on treatment.

About 84.7 per cent tested negative, while 12.6 per cent were diagnosed with latent infection and offered preventive treatment to reduce their risk of developing active TB disease in the future.

Latent TB infection is non-infectious and people who have it cannot spread the disease to others.

A stallholder at the market and food centre told ST that business has yet to completely return to normal, so the rebates and waivers will help. He was thankful that Mr Chua made an effort to engage the hawkers and the agencies.

Mr Calvin Lee, owner of Japanese rice bowl shop The Bowl Story, faced a 50 per cent drop in footfall in the two weeks after news of the cluster broke. After the mass screening, his lunch crowd returned, but business for dinner is only 70 per cent of what it was before.

The 54-year-old said: “Whatever happened has happened, so any help we can get is good.”