Coronavirus: 170 people fined for flouting safe distancing rules; crowds thin at popular markets

SINGAPORE – Close to 170 people have been fined for not complying with safe distancing rules, while more than 30 did not wear a mask outside of their homes on Thursday (April 23), even as crowds at four popular markets thinned after stricter entry measures were implemented.

Giving an update of the figures of those brought to task in a Facebook post on Thursday night, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli also encouraged Singaporeans to stay home.

“I hope those who face fines understand that breaching the measures is socially irresponsible,” Mr Masagos wrote.

The update comes even as the National Environment Agency (NEA) said that thinner crowds were observed at four popular markets that have implemented measures to restrict entry. The four markets are Geylang Serai Market, Chong Pang Market at Block 104/105 Yishun Ring Road, and the markets at Block 20/21 Marsiling Lane and Block 505 Jurong West Street 52.

The agency said on Thursday that queues were visibly shorter at these markets that implemented the entry restriction on Wednesday. On average, queue lengths were shorter by about 30 per cent to 50 per cent compared with before the rule was implemented.

Consumers heading out to buy groceries at these markets will be able to do so only on alternate days, depending on the last digit of their identity card or foreign identification card number (FIN).

If the last digit of a person’s NRIC or FIN is an odd number, he should visit the four markets only on odd dates of the month, such as Thursday, which is April 23.

If the last digit of a person’s NRIC or FIN is an even number, including the number zero, he should visit the four markets only on even dates of the month, such as Friday, which is April 24.

NEA said that queue lengths have ranged from 20 to 90 people at the four markets since the rule was implemented, compared to about 30 to 180 people on Tuesday during morning peak periods, with some variations across the four markets.

At the busiest of the four markets, Geylang Serai, NEA observed an average queue length of not more than 50 people from 7am to 10am on Thursday, compared to a consistently long queue length of more than 100 from 8am on Tuesday morning.

More than 90 per cent of patrons had their identification cards with them when they visited the markets, and compliance with the rules increased from an average of 60 per cent to 70 per cent on Wednesday to 80 per cent to 85 per cent on Thursday, the agency said.

Some flexibility was exercised to ease patrons into the new rule. Those who came on the wrong date were reminded of the new restriction, but were still allowed to enter the markets.

However from Friday, NEA will be enforcing the rule and those who do not adhere to the odd or even date entry restriction will be denied entry to the markets.

The agency reminded members of the public to bring their identification cards with them and to visit the markets alone. For patrons who need assistance with their marketing, such as the elderly and people with disabilities, one other accompanying member in the same household, or a foreign domestic worker, is allowed to go to the market with them.

A digital check-in application is also being piloted at Geylang Serai Market.

Since Thursday, patrons may have their identification cards scanned before they enter the market. NEA said this was for contact tracing purposes and to fine-tune crowd management measures.

It encouraged patrons to visit the markets on weekdays at non-peak periods after 10am where crowds are about 50 per cent smaller than during peak hours.

Mr Masagos said: “Let us continue to make positive adjustments in our daily lives to safeguard public health. Stay home, stay safe.”

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