Coronavirus: 400 patrons turned away for not following stricter entry limits at popular markets

Enforcement officers checking the identity cards of shoppers at the market at Block 505 Jurong West Street 52 on April 23, 2020. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - Just over 400 people were turned away on Friday morning (April 24) for not following stricter entry limits at four popular markets, said the National Environment Agency (NEA).

This constitutes about 5 per cent of the crowd visiting these markets during the peak hours from 7am to 10am.

Since Wednesday, shoppers can visit these markets only on alternate days, depending on the last digit of their identity card or foreign identification card number (FIN), as part of efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

If the last digit of a person's NRIC or FIN is an odd number, he can visit only on odd dates of the month.

If the last digit is an even number, including the number zero, he will be allowed entry only on even dates of the month.

But NEA and the relevant town councils started to enforce this restriction on Friday morning. People who turned up at the markets on the wrong day would be refused entry.

The affected markets are 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.

Among the four markets, the proportion of patrons turned away from the markets for not following the entry requirement ranges from 1 per cent at Chong Pang Market to 10 per cent for the market at Block 505 Jurong West Street 52, NEA said.

The agency also noted that across all four markets, queues were shorter on Friday morning compared with the past two days, ranging from no queues to queues of about 20 people.

NEA said it was also encouraging that almost all patrons had their NRIC or FIN documentation with them when visiting the four markets.

Taken together, the developments on Friday suggest that there was greater awareness of the new entry restriction, which resulted in more people following it. This then led to shorter queues and a more pleasant and safe marketing experience for patrons, the agency added.

"We urge family members to remind the elderly to avoid visiting markets, especially during peak hours," it said.

"Spreading out the crowds at the markets across the day and course of the week is critical in ensuring that safe distancing measures remain effective."

NEA advised the public to visit the markets slightly later over the weekend, as the crowd usually thins out from around 10am and fresh produce continues to be available till about noon.

If possible, patrons should avoid visiting markets over the weekend and do their groceries on a weekday instead, the agency said. Most markets are open on Mondays, where the crowd is about half that of a normal day and produce such as fruits, vegetables, tofu and eggs can still be purchased.

Meanwhile, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said on Facebook that 60 people were caught by enforcement officers on Friday for not complying with safe distancing measures. They are expected to be fined.

Almost 20 people will face fines for not wearing masks.

"This is a big improvement from previous days," said Mr Masagos. "I hope these numbers will continue to decrease as more people understand the spirit of the circuit breaker measures."

However, he noted that the authorities have observed many vehicles parked along the East Coast Park service road, after recent measures that closed all carparks in gardens and parks to minimise movement and interactions among people.

"This goes against the intent of what we want to do," said Mr Masagos. "If you want to exercise, please go to a park or park connector in your immediate neighbourhood, instead of driving to a park far away. I ask for your understanding to make this adjustment, to help reduce the risk of community transmission in Singapore."

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