Hawker centres, eateries still see huge crowds on first day of tightened Covid-19 rules

SINGAPORE – Crowds still formed at hawker centres, foodcourts and coffee shops on Saturday (May 8) even though new rules requiring people to gather only in groups of five, from eight previously, have started to kick in.

Most people kept to the five-person limit but the 1m safe distancing measure did not seem to be enforced at some of the places The Straits Times checked out.

Kim Keat Palm Market and Food Centre in Toa Payoh Lorong 7 saw snaking queues for many stalls, as did the hawker centre at Tampines Block 201, with all tables filled when ST visited.

At Ang Mo Kio Central Market and Food Centre, several groups of four were spotted sharing tables. People were also seen sitting on seats that had been crossed out and are not meant to be sat on.

ST also did not see any safe distancing ambassadors at these places.

Admin assistant Angel Tan, 43, was at the food centre in Ang Mo Kio with her two daughters for lunch, said safe distancing rules for queueing are not displayed or enforced.

“There are no stickers to show how far patrons should stand from each other while queueing, so you have to check,” she said.

With the rise in community case numbers, her family tries to eat in as often as possible.

The stricter measures that kicked in from Saturday that will last until May 30 are a result of the recent spike in Covid-19 cases in the community.

The number of people allowed to gather as a group was reduced from eight to five. The rule also applies to households, which will be able to receive only five distinct visitors a day, as Singapore dials back to phase two of its reopening.

A 26-year-old who was dining at Ang Mo Kio and wanted to be known only as Mr Christian said: “Things are more or less the same and it’s still hard to find a seat for lunch… Maybe because it’s the first day of (rule) implementation.”

He visits the food centre around four or five times a week.

“I am a bit concerned about the lack of safe distancing,” he added.

He said he had to rearrange plans to go kayaking with six other friends because of the new rules.

The breakfast crowd at the Toa Payoh Lorong 7 market on May 8, 2021, morning. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

“The new rules are to be expected because I didn’t see much safe distancing during phase three, especially in areas outside stores and in the lifts. People were behaving like there were no rules,” he added.

Mr Raymond Tan, 49, who was having lunch in Tampines, said he had no choice but to dine out as he is in the midst of moving house.

“But I’m taking it easy – life goes on. We can’t be worrying about everything all the time,” said Mr Tan, who runs operations at an NTUC Foodfare outlet.

Food stall owners are not too pleased with the stricter measures as it mean fewer customers for them.

Mr Hamzah Muhammad, an employee at a roti prata stall at the Afghanistan Family Restaurant, a halal coffee shop in Tampines, said business has been quite bad this year.

The Muslim fasting month helped to bring back some business in the evening, he said.

Even so, the new safe distancing rules mean he can put out only about 20 tables, down from the 60 tables his restaurant could accommodate before the Covid-19 pandemic.

The lunch crowd at 201 Tampines Street 21 hawker centre on May 8, 2021. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Mr Tan Fong Chiew, 60, a cashier at a bread shop in Ang Mo Kio, said the number of customers has fallen by about 30 per cent this weekend.

“We have no time to think about the pandemic. We’re just thinking of how to survive,” he told ST in Mandarin.

Some Singaporeans said they had to change their plans due to the tightened measures, especially with Mother’s Day round the corner.

Housewife Cheryl Tan, 36, who was at a coffee shop in Toa Payoh with her three daughters, said: “We can’t have big family gatherings now.

“We had plans to go out for Mother’s Day, but we had to cancel everything because I have three children. With myself and my husband, that already hits the limit.”

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