Forum: Public education on hygiene must go hand in hand with tougher laws

People buy their food from Market Street Interim Hawker Centre during lunch time on June 2, 2020.
People buy their food from Market Street Interim Hawker Centre during lunch time on June 2, 2020.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

We appreciate the feedback from Mr Lim Kock Lian (Update market, hawker centre design in the name of hygiene, June 5, and Present state of hawker centres leaves much to be desired, June 13) and Dr Thomas Lee Hock Seng (Build hawker centres with centralised dish collection and washing system, June 16). I agree wholeheartedly with them.

The Public Hygiene Council (PHC) has reiterated many times that hawker centres must be designed in a way that results in a clean and conducive environment for both customers and vendors.

In fact, we have suggested a thorough revamp of the way public eating places are designed, run and managed, including how standards and guidelines are supervised and enforced.

I am happy to read about the Hawker Centres Upgrading Programme and other steps being taken to upgrade and build new centres that meet these objectives (Hawker centres have been regularly upgraded, June 11, by Mr Andrew Low).

I encourage the National Environment Agency to accelerate its upgrading efforts. The PHC is working with coffee-shop owners and associations to do the same.

The cleaning industry also needs to be upgraded. This entails sustained training and use of technology to improve productivity and efficiency.

Only when we are able to raise the professionalism and dignity of our cleaning workforce will we be able to reduce our dependence on low-skilled, low-wage foreign workers.

The PHC has also repeatedly stressed the need to take cleanliness and hygiene more seriously. Our public education efforts must be complemented by tougher laws and fines.

It is worrying to learn from a Singapore Management University study this year that public toilets are becoming dirtier instead of cleaner, and that littering is still a big problem.

The Covid-19 crisis has made us realise that we need to improve our hygiene standards and change our perception of the cleaning workforce. Next, we need to turn our words into action.

Edward D'Silva

Chairman

Public Hygiene Council

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 17, 2020, with the headline 'Public education on hygiene must go hand in hand with tougher laws'. Print Edition | Subscribe