askST: Can I share a table with another group at a hawker centre in phase 3?

SINGAPORE – As Singapore enters day 3 of phase 3, more are making plans to go out and dine in larger groups of eight, up from the previous limit of five.

But they are unclear if patrons are allowed to share tables when dining, while keeping to the rule of eight. Clara Chong answers these and other questions.

Q: Am I allowed to share a table with other diners at hawker centres, especially during peak hours when there are more crowds?

A: A 1m safe distance must be kept between the different dining groups, should patrons wish to dine with other groups in hawker centres. Each dining group must also be not more than eight people. Tables with more than eight seats will still have some seats marked out to ensure this is closely is followed. Markings on seats and tables in hawker centres have been revised to accommodate the increase in dining group size.

Where seats at adjacent tables are less than 1m apart, some seats may be marked out to ensure that a safe distance is still maintained between groups at different tables. Safe Distancing Ambassadors will continue to be deployed at places like hawker centres to ensure compliance with safe management measures.

Q: My household consists of more than eight people. Can we all go out together since we are from the same household?

A: As it is difficult to easily tell in a public setting if a group of more than eight is from the same household, residents will need to adhere to the group size limits in public settings when going out together, even though they may come from the same household.

Keeping to group size limits in public settings is important so as to not inadvertently encourage others, who may come from different households, to gather in groups that are larger than eight.

The group size limit is meant to minimise interaction and the risk of transmission across different households.

Q: Do I still need to maintain a 1m safe distance from other groups while queuing? Why?

A: Yes. Associate Professor Alex Cook, vice-dean of research at the National University of Singapore’s Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health explained: “With greater easing of restrictions, more mingling of people in larger groups and potentially easing of border restrictions to allow for more travel in and out of the country, the number of Covid-19 cases can be expected to increase slightly.”

Hence, to contain any small clusters that might mushroom, and decrease the chances of community spread between groups, it is paramount that safe distancing between groups and other safe management measures such as mask wearing are strictly adhered to in phase 3. These will guard against an accelerated spread, which is now more likely to occur, Prof Cook said.

Q: What if I go to the supermarket, or a food and beverage (F&B) outlet and there are too many people inside or in the queue for me to practise 1m safe distancing?

A: Do follow the instructions of the staff on where and how to queue.

Alternatively, you may wish to go to an alternative shop, if possible, or return later at a less busy time.

Q: What if someone outside my group comes close to me in public spaces? Will I be punished?

A: Enforcement officers will assess the facts of each case carefully. Officers, however, will not hesitate to take action against egregious breaches.

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