Coronavirus: Most try to toe the line, but crowds still seen in supermarkets, at parks and beaches in Singapore

A queue forms outside FairPrice Finest at Clementi Mall around 12.30pm, on April 10, 2020. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY
A queue forms outside Clementi Mall for shoppers entering FairPrice Finest on April 10, 2020. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY
People mostly in pairs or alone at Bukit Timah Hill on April 10, 2020. NParks officers were stationed around with signs reminding people to keep 1m apart. PHOTO: TIFFANY FUMIKO TAY

SINGAPORE - As Singapore enters its fourth day of circuit breaker measures, crowds were seen mostly in supermarkets and wet markets, as people headed out to do their shopping on Good Friday (April 10), a public holiday.

Shoppers The Straits Times spoke to said it was sometimes difficult to keep 1m from others due to the limited space, and said they have had to do their grocery shopping more often as they have been cooking more while at home.

But most were aware of the need for safe distancing measures, and said they were trying their best to adhere to them.

At Serangoon Central Wet Market, people were seen picking out their fresh produce in close proximity at about 8am on Friday, despite the markings on the floor indicating that they were standing too close together.

Ms Jenny Yeo, 58, who was at the poultry stall, said: "It's not that we don't want to stand further apart, but the shop owners only have that much space in front of their counters."

The administrative assistant, who lives with her husband and two adult children, added that she has been going there to buy vegetables every three days because "they cannot keep for long".

Stall assistants reminded customers to buy their groceries quickly and to maintain the 1m safe distancing rule. One assistant, who declined to be named, told ST that crowds have thinned significantly since the circuit breaker measures kicked in earlier this week.

"It is normally a lot more crowded at this time on public holidays. It was very busy last weekend, but this week has been quiet," he said.

Crowd control measures were in place at the Block 16 Bedok South wet market, with a central pathway stipulated as the entry and exit.

Shoppers at FairPrice Xtra at Nex shopping mall on April 10, 2020. ST PHOTO: CHOO YUN TING

Two officers from the National Environment Agency were regulating a queue of 25 people at 9.30am, and most shoppers were wearing either resuable or surgical masks and waiting patiently for their turn.

The vegetable stores, however, were an exception.

Mr Chua Cheng Kee, 62, a Grab driver who was doing his marketing there, said: "It's hard to stand 1m apart because the lanes are cramped and there are many people. I think it's fine, as the queue moves fast. People are just waiting to pay and go.

At the Sheng Siong outlet in Ghim Moh Link, Mr Salehin Ahmad, 31, was among the shoppers wearing masks and queueing for groceries on Friday.

He said that working from home had prevented him from going out to buy the essentials his family needs, and that Friday was the first time this week that he has had the time to go to the supermarket.

Mr Ahmad, who works in the finance industry, said: "I'm out now buying groceries because my family's supply at home is running low and I finally have the time to do so now because it's a public holiday and I don't have to work.

The scene at Sheng Shiong outlet in Ghim Moh was calm, with most people patiently queueing to buy groceries, on April 10, 2020. ST PHOTO: HARIZ BAHARUDIN

"I feel like I'm still adhering to the rules because I'm alone and I'm wearing my mask, and I'm happy to see that there are many who are doing so."

In a Facebook post, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli urged shoppers not to linger in markets when doing their grocery runs, and suggested that one way to speed up the process is to make a list of the items that they need before heading out.

"This way, you can move quickly through the market. Exit the market as soon as you can, so that others will have a chance to buy what they need," he said.

He added: "Do your marketing during weekdays, or go to other markets which are not as busy. For our elderly, do avoid visiting the wet markets, and get others to help if you need food or essential items."

Senior citizens are one of the most vulnerable groups to the coronavirus.

The minister was at the Geylang Serai and Tekka markets on Friday morning and noted that the latter was quieter than the one at Geylang Serai.

Stallholders are making adjustments too to make sure markets do not become the next active cluster for Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. Those at Geylang Serai market will extend their hours till 5pm on Saturday and Sunday, while fishmongers at Tekka market have placed styrofoam boxes in front of their stalls to ensure patrons are spaced out

Meanwhile, people were also out stretching their legs at Bukit Timah Hill. Most of them exercised alone or in pairs, although some families were seen enjoying the sunshine with their children.

There were at least a dozen National Parks Board officers stationed near the entrance and along the footpaths holding signs reminding people to adhere to the safe distancing measures.

Under circuit breaker measures, people are allowed to step out of their homes for a short bout of exercise, but should preferably do so alone. Outdoor group activities are forbidden.

The National Parks Board said some 1,000 of its staff had been rostered to monitor the situation at green spaces across the island, which have witnessed "relatively low visitorship" since the measures kicked in on Tuesday.

Ulu Pandan park connector is mostly empty apart from the occasional jogger and cyclist, on April 10, 2020. ST PHOTO: HARIZ BAHARUDIN

But, on Friday, it needed to temporarily close the access bridge at the Wetland Centre in Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and MacRitchie TreeTop Walk. It also issued more than 90 stern warnings and fines to those who gathered in groups or who entered areas that were closed in parks managed by NParks and Town Councils.

Dr Leong Chee Chiew, NParks' Commissioner of Parks & Recreation, said NParks staff had been delegated powers under the Infectious Diseases Act, in addition to those they already have under the Parks and Trees Act.

Facebook user Joshua Yak also posted that the scene at East Coast Park on Friday morning was unacceptable, saying there were whole families at the beach and some people had "(made) their own gym at the pavilion".

He said he had decided to go for a walk at the beach alone but had to turn back.

As of noon on Thursday, Singapore has reported 1,910 Covid-19 cases. Of these, 460 have recovered. Six have died.

More than 10,000 advisories have been issued by enforcement officers to people who gathered at hawker centres, markets and Housing Board public spaces, among other locations, and who failed to abide by safe distancing measures.

People buy vegetables at Tiong Bahru Market around 9am, on April 10, 2020. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

The authorities have made clear the penalties people will face if they breach these measures.

Enforcement officers will immediately take down their particulars.

For the first offence, they get a stern written warning; for the second, a $300 fine; and for the third offence, it is prosecution in court.

In egregious cases, there may be prosecution, even if it is a first offence. The police may also be contacted for follow-up action.

Under the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act, first-time offenders face a fine of up to $10,000, imprisonment of up to six months, or both. Second-time offenders can be fined up to $20,000, jailed for up to 12 months, or both.

Additional reporting by Choo Yun Ting, Hariz Baharudin, Janice Tai

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