Seniors still heading out amid Covid-19 surge but only for essential purposes

SINGAPORE - When housewife Chan Sock Cheng, 68, needs fresh ingredients to whip up a meal, she will visit Chinatown Complex and the market in Waterloo Street.

Madam Chan, who received her booster shot last month, said she goes grocery shopping about three times a week. This routine has not changed despite the pandemic and the advisories for seniors to stay home.

"If I have to use the ingredient, I will have to go and buy it because I am cooking every day," she said in Mandarin, adding that she otherwise remains at home.

Madam Chan, who lives with her husband, daughter and two grandsons in Jalan Besar, said: "I will just buy whatever I need and go home. I will not hang around the area."

Of the 50 people The Straits Times interviewed, 22 indicated that they leave their homes only when absolutely necessary - to keep medical appointments, pick up groceries or for exercise.

An 80-year-old, who wished to be known only as Madam Huang, said that although she does not feel safe leaving her home in Jalan Besar, she sometimes has to do so every two to three days to pick up groceries.

Madam Huang, who lives with her husband, usually buys a week's worth of ingredients, but added: "Some vegetables cannot be kept for too long."

She was initially reluctant to get vaccinated for Covid-19, but after much persuasion from community groups, completed her two-jab regime in August. She said: "The vaccine is very good. I don't feel unwell after the first and second jabs. I didn't get fever or anything."

She added that she is currently waiting for notification from the Ministry of Health to receive her booster shot.

Retired hawker Koh Yee Hatt, 73, said he has even quit his daily exercise routine.

Mr Koh, who took the booster shot last month, said in Mandarin: "I go out only once or twice a week to the market or eat out."

In Mr Mohamed Abu Backar's case, the 78-year-old gets his children and grandchildren to buy his groceries. They live with him and his wife.

"I will go out only when I need to purchase some items, such as tools, which my children or grandchildren may not be familiar with," he said.

Mr Abu, who took his booster shot recently, does not remove his mask when outdoors, keeps a safe distance from others and has cut idle chatter.

"It is best if the elderly stay at home to avoid the spread of the coronavirus, but it is also advisable for them to go out occasionally just to walk around a little bit to keep themselves fit and active."