Coronavirus pandemic

Businesses that breach Covid-19 safety measures risk being shut down

Lawrence Wong cautions firms to take phase two rules seriously

A social distancing ambassador monitoring the crowd entering Ion Orchard on June 20, 2020.
A social distancing ambassador monitoring the crowd entering Ion Orchard on June 20, 2020.ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

Businesses and offices have to take safe management measures seriously or face consequences including the shutting down of their operations, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong warned yesterday.

Speaking at a virtual press conference, he said the authorities will not hesitate to shut down operations immediately if there are egregious breaches. These businesses would have to close until they implement proper precautions, he added.

Noting that there may be some that try to get around the rules, Mr Wong, who co-chairs the multiministry task force tackling Covid-19, cautioned: "If you take that sort of attitude, you can be sure that at some point in time, someone will report the lapses that they see in your business premises."

He urged businesses and offices to abide by the measures, adding that it is in their interest to do so.

"The consequences of that closure will be much worse for any business. So it is far better for all businesses to take the measures seriously and do their utmost now to comply with the full extent of the requirements," he added.

"It requires discipline, it requires some sacrifice on the part of all of us. But collectively if we do this, we will stand a better chance of a safe and sustainable reopening in phase two."

Under phase two of the reopening of Singapore's economy which started last Friday, more businesses have been operating and dining in is also allowed at food and beverage outlets. This has led to more people leaving their homes.

On June 19, the first day of phase two, crowds gathered to see fights that had broken out in Lorong Mambong in Holland Village.

A restaurant there, British Indian Curry Hut, was later ordered to close because it failed to ensure safe management practices. Images and videos circulated on social media showed scenes of overcrowding in front of the restaurant after the fights broke out.

On the incident, Mr Wong said action has been taken.

He added: "We are continuing to monitor, whether it is food and beverage outlets or retail shops, and we will be very vigilant in our enforcement actions. If and when we see breaches happening, we will go in straight away to rectify them."

PLAY YOUR PART

It is far better for all businesses to take the measures seriously and do their utmost now to comply with the full extent of the requirements. It requires discipline, it requires some sacrifice on the part of all of us. But collectively if we do this, we will stand a better chance of a safe and sustainable reopening in phase two.

MR LAWRENCE WONG, urging businesses and offices to abide by safe management measures

For minor breaches, the authorities will ask the businesses to make the necessary rectifications, he added. "If it is an egregious one, we will look at asking the business to close its operations until it can put proper safe management measures in place."

Customer-facing businesses must implement proper practices in managing customers that patronise them. For F&B outlets, this includes ensuring diners are in groups of not more than five and are seated at least 1m apart. Retail shops have to put in place a queue system that prevents customers from rushing in and being in close contact with one another, among other precautions.

While some businesses are adhering well to the measures, others can do better, said Mr Wong. "If you have a weak system of controls and have large numbers of people coming to your store, that is when the system is under stress and that is when all the weaknesses show up."

Safe distancing ambassadors and enforcement officers will continue their patrols islandwide, and will take action against any breach by both individuals and operators.

Mr Wong noted, however, that most residents have complied with the measures. "They have acted responsibly and taken all the necessary precautions, even while they go about resuming their activities."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2020, with the headline 'Businesses that breach safety measures risk being shut down'. Subscribe