Coronavirus Singapore

Stricter rules kick in at coffee shops, hawker centres

Some stalls put up signs to remind customers that only the vaccinated are allowed to dine in

New rules forbidding unvaccinated people from dining in at hawker centres and coffee shops that kicked in yesterday have left some confused.

When The Straits Times visited several places, checks were conducted at some but not others.

At Hougang 203 Coffee Shop, stallholders were actively asking patrons to show their vaccination status. Patrons like Mr K. Tang, who works in logistics, was annoyed by the checks at each stall he went to.

"I've been asked three times in 10 minutes for my vaccination status. Why can't they just check once? I will have to show it for a fourth time later when I buy food for my wife. It's so frustrating," he said.

Mr Goh Luo Wei, 30, who runs Cheng Kee Beef Kway Teow at the coffee shop, said he was informed by the management on Tuesday to start checking his customers from yesterday. His staff also put up a sign at the stall to remind customers that only the vaccinated are allowed to dine in.

"Many customers just said they are vaccinated but didn't show us their TraceTogether app, giving the excuse that their phones are at the table," said Mr Goh.

"This morning, a customer got angry with us for asking to see his vaccination status, but we are just following the rules. Why make our jobs difficult?" he said, adding that it was extra work for him.

At Tiong Bahru Market and Hawker Centre, officers from the National Environment Agency (NEA) were seen asking the breakfast crowd streaming in about their vaccination status.

One officer reminded an unvaccinated woman she could only buy takeaway food. Despite the usual crowd, operations were smooth with no long queues.

At FoodCity coffee shop in Tampines Street 11, no officers or safe distancing ambassadors were seen.

Ms Jenny Sim, 45, the supervisor of a drink stall, said she was told off by a few elderly customers who were frustrated by the checks.

"Some seniors came with their TraceTogether tokens thinking they would suffice, but we're not getting them to check in. We're checking their vaccination status on the app," she said.

At hawker centres in Kovan and Tampines, people were seen walking in and out, and having their meals freely.

At Kovan food centre in Hougang Street 21, warehouse operator Peter Soon, 49, who was having breakfast with his wife, said: "No safe distancing ambassador checked our vaccination status; it's up to the customer's own integrity."

Stallholders told ST they had not been informed about the need to verify patrons' vaccination status.

Mr William Lim, 65, a chicken rice stallholder at Kovan 209 Market and Food Centre, said he was frustrated by the constantly changing rules.

He added: "We are already working very hard to keep business going.... We don't need extra work."

On Tuesday, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu said her ministry would take a pragmatic approach in implementing the vaccination-differentiated rules in hawker centres and coffee shops.

NEA, which manages hawker centres, and the Singapore Food Agency, which handles coffee shop operators, said earlier that they will work with stallholders to urge unvaccinated patrons to not dine in. Checks on the vaccination status of diners will be done by safe distancing enforcement officers, who will do this selectively as part of their patrols, said the agencies.

Diners found to have breached the vaccination-differentiated safe management rules will be warned and enforcement action will be taken against repeat offenders and those who refuse to cooperate.

• Additional reporting by Shermaine Ang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2021, with the headline 'Stricter rules kick in at coffee shops, hawker centres'. Subscribe