Coronavirus pandemic

Buzz is back as malls reopen, dining in resumes

From Orchard Road to the heartlands, long queues and crowds formed at shopping malls and shops, which reopened on the first day of Singapore’s phase two. Shoppers and retailers talk about precautions they are taking to stay safe.
Relatives visiting the graves of their loved ones at the Lim Chu Kang Muslim Cemetery yesterday. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR Left: Breakfast time at 826 Tampines Kopi Point in Tampines Street 81 yesterday. Right: Diners enjoying their meals at a foodcour
Breakfast time at 826 Tampines Kopi Point in Tampines Street 81 yesterday. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Relatives visiting the graves of their loved ones at the Lim Chu Kang Muslim Cemetery yesterday. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR Left: Breakfast time at 826 Tampines Kopi Point in Tampines Street 81 yesterday. Right: Diners enjoying their meals at a foodcour
Diners enjoying their meals at a foodcourt in City Square Mall. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
Relatives visiting the graves of their loved ones at the Lim Chu Kang Muslim Cemetery yesterday. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR Left: Breakfast time at 826 Tampines Kopi Point in Tampines Street 81 yesterday. Right: Diners enjoying their meals at a foodcour
Shoppers busy at sporting goods store Decathlon in City Square Mall (above) and the H&M retail outlet in Jem mall. ST PHOTOS: JASON QUAH
Relatives visiting the graves of their loved ones at the Lim Chu Kang Muslim Cemetery yesterday. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR Left: Breakfast time at 826 Tampines Kopi Point in Tampines Street 81 yesterday. Right: Diners enjoying their meals at a foodcour
Shoppers busy at sporting goods store Decathlon in City Square Mall and the H&M retail outlet in Jem mall (above).ST PHOTOS: JASON QUAH
Relatives visiting the graves of their loved ones at the Lim Chu Kang Muslim Cemetery yesterday. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR Left: Breakfast time at 826 Tampines Kopi Point in Tampines Street 81 yesterday. Right: Diners enjoying their meals at a foodcour
Five-year-old Olivia having a good time at the playground outside Tampines West Community Club. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Relatives visiting the graves of their loved ones at the Lim Chu Kang Muslim Cemetery yesterday. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR Left: Breakfast time at 826 Tampines Kopi Point in Tampines Street 81 yesterday. Right: Diners enjoying their meals at a foodcour
Residents back to their daily morning exercises at Bukit Gombak Stadium. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID
Relatives visiting the graves of their loved ones at the Lim Chu Kang Muslim Cemetery yesterday. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR Left: Breakfast time at 826 Tampines Kopi Point in Tampines Street 81 yesterday. Right: Diners enjoying their meals at a foodcour
The clear shields for partitioning gym users will be on trial at the EnergyOne gym at Safra Punggol. PHOTO: SAFRA
Relatives visiting the graves of their loved ones at the Lim Chu Kang Muslim Cemetery yesterday. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR Left: Breakfast time at 826 Tampines Kopi Point in Tampines Street 81 yesterday. Right: Diners enjoying their meals at a foodcour
Relatives visiting the graves of their loved ones at the Lim Chu Kang Muslim Cemetery yesterday. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Long queues outside popular outlets; trains, buses more crowded than usual

As shops and malls opened for business and dining in resumed, more people left their homes yesterday when Singapore moved into the second phase of the reopening of the economy.

But with the Covid-19 pandemic far from over, many remained cautious and practised safe distancing measures, as long queues were seen at shops and malls visited by The Straits Times.

At hawker centres and foodcourts in Bukit Timah, Kovan and Bishan, there was no rush for tables, with many still opting for takeaways instead.

Those who sat down to eat did so in small groups - no more than five, according to the guidelines - and many wore masks when not eating or drinking.

Yishun resident Cheng Lye Poh, 91, was visibly excited when he met his breakfast "kakis" at a coffee shop, where he has been a regular for four decades.

His granddaughter Jocelyn Lee, 35, said he was raring to go at 7am and kept asking when he could leave the house.

"The past two months have been very difficult for him," she said.

The eagerness to socialise was also evident at Simpang Bedok the night before, when people gathered for supper as soon as they were allowed to do so after midnight.

Theatre actor and director Sani Hussin, 46, said: "This is the opening ceremony that everyone has been waiting for.

"Nothing beats face-to-face interaction and having a meal with friends."

As more people were out and about yesterday, including those going back to work at restaurants, shops and other workplaces, trains and buses were more crowded than before, though less so than during pre-Covid-19 days.

A BIG RELIEF

The past two months have been very difficult for him.

MS JOCELYN LEE, whose 91-year-old grandfather Cheng Lye Poh was able to have breakfast at his regular coffee shop again.

REALISING THE VALUE

I really learnt to appreciate the significance of playgrounds after two months of closures.

MR LIEW KAI KHIUN, a researcher who took his 22-month-old daughter to a playground in Potong Pasir.

Still, some trains pulling into Serangoon MRT station at lunch time saw many commuters sitting and standing shoulder-to-shoulder.

At restaurants and shopping malls, customers had to log their visits via digital check-in system SafeEntry, and have their temperature recorded by the staff.

However, the checks and long queues outside popular malls and stores in the heartland and in Orchard Road did not deter shoppers.

Many waited patiently and in an orderly manner, monitored at many places by safe distancing ambassadors.

A line of about 20 had formed outside Popular bookstore at Nex in Serangoon an hour before it was due to open at 11.30am.

Over at IMM mall in Jurong East, dozens were seen queueing outside discount store Daiso.

Snaking queues were also spotted outside Ngee Ann City.

 
 
 

Entry points to Ion Orchard and Wisma Atria from Orchard MRT station were demarcated so that commuters were funnelled through them if they wished to enter the malls.

At Robertson Quay in the evening, restaurants which had removed tables to meet the 1m safe distancing rule between groups received their dinner guests.

The Straits Times noticed that at some places, orders were taken only after the staff verified that customers had checked in via SafeEntry.

Business owner Chanon T, 25, who was having a meal with friends, said the opening was timely as staying at home for too long can affect one's mental health.

He said: "I would love to come out more... During the circuit breaker, we were stuck at home and in the same environment every day."

Even as they were happy to be out, some diners also expressed concerns over a second wave of infections if people are not vigilant.

Student Nicholas Lee, 24, said: "I think people will abide by their social responsibilities. The posters everywhere definitely help."

Even as some spent the day eating out and shopping, many also chose to stay home.

Housewife Angie Sim, 56, said: "I have been taking my evening walks daily, so I don't feel cooped up at home. I don't really need to buy anything, so I decided to just stay at home.

"There is no need to go to the shopping centre just because you can."

 
 

Others headed to sports and public facilities such as gyms and swimming complexes, as well as beaches and playgrounds, that also opened yesterday.

As soon as they woke up yesterday, Mr Liew Kai Khiun took his 22-month-old daughter Maya to a playground in Potong Pasir, even removing the barrier tape himself.

Allowing her to play there again was good for the development of her motor skills, said the researcher.

"I really learnt to appreciate the significance of playgrounds after two months of closures," he added.

• Additional reporting by Audrey Tan and Zaihan Mohamed Yusof

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 20, 2020, with the headline 'Buzz is back as malls reopen, dining in resumes'. Print Edition | Subscribe