Malls in Singapore bracing themselves for less business as Covid-19 entry restrictions return

Diners from fast food joint Jollibee at Lucky Plaza on May 1, 2021.
Diners from fast food joint Jollibee at Lucky Plaza on May 1, 2021.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID
Till May 14, the capacity limit for malls and large standalone stores has been reduced.
Till May 14, the capacity limit for malls and large standalone stores has been reduced.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID
Migrant and domestic workers queueing for remittance and courier services at Lucky Plaza on May 1, 2021.
Migrant and domestic workers queueing for remittance and courier services at Lucky Plaza on May 1, 2021.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID
A salon with business as usual at Lucky Plaza on May 1, 2021.
A salon with business as usual at Lucky Plaza on May 1, 2021.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID
Safe distancing ambassadors seen approaching a man who was not wearing his mask properly at Peninsula Plaza on May 1, 2021.
Safe distancing ambassadors seen approaching a man who was not wearing his mask properly at Peninsula Plaza on May 1, 2021.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID
Top-down view of Ya Kun Kaya Toast at United Square on May 1, 2021.
Top-down view of Ya Kun Kaya Toast at United Square on May 1, 2021.ST PHOTO: YONG LI XUAN
Shoppers scanning their TraceTogether token and SafeEntry QR codes to enter Velocity @ Novena Square on May 1, 2021.
Shoppers scanning their TraceTogether token and SafeEntry QR codes to enter Velocity @ Novena Square on May 1, 2021.ST PHOTO: YONG LI XUAN
The FairPrice outlet in Kitchener Complex being cleaned on April 30, 2021. It was one of the places visited by individuals with Covid-19.
The FairPrice outlet in Kitchener Complex being cleaned on April 30, 2021. It was one of the places visited by individuals with Covid-19.ST PHOTO: SHINTARO TAY

SINGAPORE - Medical sales assistant Katherine Tan, 63, was one of the tenants and employees at Lucky Plaza whose happiness was short-lived when they learnt the odd-and-even entry restrictions were back.

She said: "We were so happy to welcome the crowds back, but suddenly the community cases (of Covid-19) happened again."

The multi-ministry task force (MTF) announced on Friday night (April 30) that safe management measures at malls would be tightened again, with the recent rise in cases of the coronavirus infection here.

Shopping malls, which had entry restrictions imposed in April last year and eased in December, are now back to square one. Till May 14, the capacity limit for malls and large standalone stores has been reduced, with each person needing 10 sq m of space, instead of 8 sq m.

Peninsula Plaza and Lucky Plaza will also have entry restrictions reinstated on Sundays that let only those whose identification numbers end in even digits visit on even dates, and those whose numbers end in odd digits visit on odd dates.  Those restrictions were put in place in August last year and lifted only on April 10.

Outdoor barbecue pits - including those in parks, HDB estates, condominiums and country clubs - and campsites will also be closed to the public.


Outdoor barbecue pits and campsites will also be closed to the public. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO 

Said Ms Tan, who works in a medicine shop in Lucky Plaza: "It is better to have restrictions as everyone is safe. However, business will go down."

She added her boss will likely feel the pinch, especially since the peak crowd is on Sunday.

Lucky Plaza is a weekend hotspot for foreign workers.

Domestic helper Edna Nacianceno, 49, usually goes there every Saturday to run errands like sending money home to the Philippines.

She said: "I feel safer with the odd-even scheme. I don't want to go out on Sunday, as it is very crowded. But with the scheme, the crowd is more regulated."


Migrant and domestic workers queueing for remittance and courier services at Lucky Plaza on May 1, 2021. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

There were no crowds at Peninsula Plaza, United Square and Velocity @ Novena Square, when The Sunday Times visited between 11am and 1pm on Saturday.

Ms Corina Teo, who chairs Peninsula Plaza's MCST management council, said the tightening will reduce the mall’s capacity limit for shoppers by 20 per cent.

Four safe distancing ambassadors (SDAs) were seen at Peninsula Plaza, and two at United Square. At least seven SDAs were spotted at Velocity  @  Novena Square, patrolling in pairs.


At least seven safe distancing ambassadors were seen at Velocity  @  Novena Square on May 1, 2021. ST PHOTO: YONG LI XUAN

Velocity @ Novena Square is a stone’s throw from Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), where a  Covid-19 cluster was identified last week.

The task force said on Friday that public agencies in the Novena area will ask their staff to work from home where possible, to lower the risk of transmission.

Tenants at Velocity  @  Novena Square said this could hit business on weekdays.

Said Ms Kim Tan, 66, who runs a pushcart stall selling Indonesian cakes and snacks: "Most of the crowd here are people working nearby and visitors to TTSH. Since they will be working from home again and fewer people are allowed at the hospital, business might be slow on weekdays for the next few weeks."

Shoppers at the mall, however, said it was unnecessary to avoid the Novena area. Ms Evon Yip, 64, who goes there for fitness classes every day, felt it was still safe to go to shopping malls.


Shoppers queueing for bubble tea at Chi Cha San Chen at Velocity  @  Novena Square on May 1, 2021. ST PHOTO: YONG LI XUAN

She said: "More people are getting vaccinated and TTSH is doing a good job containing the spread of the virus. The stores recently visited by the Covid-19 patients have also been closed for cleaning, so there is nothing to worry about."

The task force also revealed public places visited by individuals during their infectious period included Junction 8 and Bugis Junction, both managed by CapitaLand. It said the places identified will be closed for two days for cleaning, and to facilitate the testing of staff.

In response to queries Saturday, CapitaLand, as well as the UOL Group, which runs Velocity @ Novena Square and United Square, said the main touchpoints and common areas in their malls were being cleaned and disinfected more frequently.

Though some felt the restrictions represent a setback, most tenants and shoppers expressed optimism that the measures would help stem more transmissions.

Ms Yip said: “We have made a lot of progress during the pandemic, it does not make sense for us to be complacent now.”