Can unvaccinated staff still work? Retailers in malls seek clarity on new rules

Besides seeking more clarity on vaccination-differentiated safe management measures, malls also want to know if unvaccinated staff can still work at outlets inside malls.
Besides seeking more clarity on vaccination-differentiated safe management measures, malls also want to know if unvaccinated staff can still work at outlets inside malls.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Mall-based businesses are seeking more clarity on how vaccination-differentiated safe management measures will be implemented once the ban on unvaccinated people from shopping centres kicks in on Wednesday (Oct 13).

They want to know if unvaccinated staff can still work at outlets inside malls if they undergo fast and easy rostered routine testing.

The Government announced last Saturday that those unvaccinated against Covid-19 can no longer enter shopping malls, as well as large standalone stores that are not supermarkets, starting this Wednesday.

The Ministry of Health has said that the vaccination-differentiated rules will protect unvaccinated individuals in the community and reduce the strain on the healthcare system.

Singapore’s director of medical services Kenneth Mak said at a virtual media conference held by the multi-ministry task force dealing with the pandemic last Saturday that unvaccinated people infected with Covid-19 face a much bigger risk of severe infection – up to 14 times higher – compared with those who are vaccinated and subsequently get infected.

The measures also came as daily cases last week crossed the 3,000 mark for five consecutive days until Sunday, when they fell to 2,809 – likely due to fewer swabs being done at the weekend.

Under the new measures, entry to malls will still be allowed for unvaccinated recovered Covid-19 individuals or children aged 12 and below, or those who have a valid negative pre-event test result.

The test result requirement, however, has also been met with questions about what forms of pre-event testing are accepted.

The Government said on Sunday that an advisory with more details will be issued before the new measures kick in on Wednesday, and that there will be a one-week grace period from Oct 13 for these measures to be implemented at shopping malls.

The new rules, however, have businesses worried.

Mr Pang Fu Wei, managing director of Mothercare Singapore, said: "Some pregnant women - who are our core demographic - are still unvaccinated because they are worried about the risks."

He said that the firm's 11 stores islandwide have seen fewer shoppers since National Day, when Covid-19 cases began climbing.

While walk-ins over the weekend did not dip, he told The Straits Times that he is worried business will start falling on Wednesday.

Ms June Tham, 28, a therapist at beauty salon Brow Art Asia's Hillion Mall outlet, said she received five cancellations over the weekend for appointments this week, including some from unvaccinated customers.

She said: "For facials, you need to be vaccinated or have a negative Covid-19 result. But very few people would bring a test result and don't even know that it is accepted."

Other businesses are taking steps so they can continue serving unvaccinated customers.

Ms Laurelle Lim, 26, an administrator at Cristofori Music School's outlet in Hillion Mall, said: "Some of our students can continue with online classes since they have pianos at home.

"They can also attend classes in our outlets located in Housing Board estates."

Even as businesses seek to provide their unvaccinated customers with alternatives, some customers feel that the new measures are too stringent.

Mr Timothy Yeo, 39, who has not been vaccinated, said: "Even bringing my five-year-old daughter into the mall for enrichment classes might be an issue now. To do a pre-event test just for that is not viable."

Mr Yeo, who works in the aviation industry, said he is waiting to take the Novavax vaccine as he does not want to take an mRNA one.

He hopes that more places offering essential services within malls, such as banks, barbershops and supermarkets, will be added to the list of establishments exempted from the new measures.

He said: "I feel that it has come to the point where getting vaccinated is forced. If I want to have any semblance of life, I would have no option but to get vaccinated."

Strategy professor Lawrence Loh from the National University of Singapore Business School said it is important to balance both collective safety and individual needs when further details of the differentiated rules are announced.

Prof Loh said: "People can buy food at hawker centres and coffee shops. But for those who have been seeing the same doctor at the same clinic for years, it's important they can continue doing so."