Caps on capacity at 4 markets still needed for effective safe distancing: NEA

Shoppers at Geylang Serai Market on Sept 12, 2020.
Shoppers at Geylang Serai Market on Sept 12, 2020.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

A cap on the number of people allowed at any one time inside four popular markets here is still necessary to ensure safe distancing measures are effective, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) yesterday.

The four markets - Geylang Serai Market, Chong Pang Market at Block 104/105 Yishun Ring Road, and the markets at Block 20/21 Marsiling Lane and Block 505 Jurong West Street 52 - had previously imposed entry restrictions allowing people to visit only on odd or even dates, depending on the last digit of their identity card number.

These restrictions were fully lifted last Saturday as part of a gradual resumption of activities in phase two of Singapore's reopening of the economy after the circuit breaker.

This was to help improve footfall for affected market stallholders, and give customers more flexibility to visit the markets, said NEA.

However, the capacity caps are still needed, said the agency yesterday.

"While it is easier for patrons to observe a safe distance of 1m between one another when queueing to enter these markets, it is harder for them to do so inside the markets due to the dynamic crowd situation and layout of the market," it said.

"While some parts of the market may look spacious, other areas such as the frontage of stalls, especially those selling seafood and vegetables, and areas where the aisles are narrower, or natural choke points of the market, may remain crowded throughout most of the morning marketing hour."

NEA's statement comes after The Straits Times reported last Saturday that stall owners at Geylang Serai Market said the lifting of entry restrictions had not made a difference to footfall as capacity caps are still in place.

NEA noted that when entry restrictions on weekdays were lifted on Aug 13, average daily footfall across the four markets increased by between 18 per cent and 40 per cent.

 

When the restrictions for weekends were lifted last Saturday, average daily footfall at the four markets over the weekend increased by between 25 per cent and 40 per cent compared with the week before.

The queues outside the markets were also longer, with the longest one of 160 people observed at Geylang Serai Market during the morning peak hour, when patrons waited for about 30 minutes to enter.

 
 

Queues at the market at Block 20/21 Marsiling Lane were moderate, while short queues were observed at the one at Block 505 Jurong West Street 52 and at Chong Pang Market, said NEA.

"Overall, the weekend queue situation outside the markets remains manageable over the last weekend, although close monitoring would be needed as we expect the queues to increase further over the next few weekends," it said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2020, with the headline 'Caps on capacity at 4 markets still needed for effective safe distancing: NEA'. Print Edition | Subscribe