SINGAPORE - Minister-in-Charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli on Wednesday (April 29) lauded the "cooperation and understanding" shown by home-based food operators who have been ordered to cease operations during the circuit breaker period, and said that help - financial and legal - is available for those who need it.
His comments come after he lambasted those who were "trying to incite our home-based business operators to pressure the Government to make exceptions" for them amid the Covid-19 measures.
He had said in a Facebook post on Monday (April 27) that such moves only rub more salt into home-based entrepreneurs' wounds because the Government cannot allow them to continue operations during this period for their and the community's safety.
In his latest Facebook post, Mr Masagos, who is also the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, said he understood operators' frustrations.
The tightened circuit breaker measures effectively put a stop to home-based F&B operations. These businesses have to cease their activities if they require the owner to leave his home or have third-party services deliver the goods; customers are also not allowed to collect the goods themselves.
This comes at a particularly inopportune time for those in the Muslim community for whom selling food from home is an important source of seasonal income, especially during the Ramadan and Hari Raya period.
A Change.org petition calling on the Housing Board to revise their approach to handling home-based business during the pandemic has garnered more than 69,000 signatures.
Mr Masagos said many operators understand the rationale for the painful measures and have accepted that they have to tide over this period like everybody else, citing a Facebook live programme by content creator Sujimi Mohamad on Monday.
With this understanding, enforcement officers can then focus on "the minority" who continue to flout safe distancing rules.
"This is what we need - cooperation and understanding... Saving lives and keeping our people safe, including home-based food business operators, remains our utmost priority," he said.
He listed three fronts on which home-based food business operators have been supported since the new rules were announced.
Financially, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education Faishal Ibrahim, as well as the Singapore Malay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SMCCI), have reached out to operators to offer them help from various schemes.
Those who register with SMCCI, for example, will automatically qualify for a one-time assistance of $500 through the Temporary Relief Fund.
He also noted that free legal support is available to operators who are now unable to fulfil their obligations and cannot come to an agreement with their customers.
They can contact pro bono lawyers who have offered their services at email@example.com, and have legal protection under the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act, he said.
SMCCI is also collecting feedback from operators to determine if further help is needed in the long term, possibly in the form of logistics and delivery support or training to increase the sector's resilience.
Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said on Monday that rules governing home-based food operators during the circuit breaker period could be eased if community transmission numbers are brought down.
Mr Masagos said: "If we all cooperate and stay calm, it will be in time for the Hari Raya orders."