Coronavirus: Singapore

Eateries remain crowded on first day of tightened rules

Most people keep to five-person limit, but seem to disregard 1m safe-distancing rule

Shoppers at the Toa Payoh Lorong 7 market yesterday morning. The rule reducing group sizes to five people also applies to households. The breakfast crowd at the Kim Keat Palm Market and Food Centre in Toa Payoh Lorong 7 yesterday, with snaking queues
The breakfast crowd at the Kim Keat Palm Market and Food Centre in Toa Payoh Lorong 7 yesterday, with snaking queues for many stalls.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
Shoppers at the Toa Payoh Lorong 7 market yesterday morning. The rule reducing group sizes to five people also applies to households. The breakfast crowd at the Kim Keat Palm Market and Food Centre in Toa Payoh Lorong 7 yesterday, with snaking queues
Shoppers at the Toa Payoh Lorong 7 market yesterday morning. The rule reducing group sizes to five people also applies to households. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Crowds still formed at hawker centres, food courts and coffee shops, even though new rules limiting groups to a maximum of five people, from eight previously, kicked in yesterday.

Most people kept to the five-person limit, but the 1m safe distancing rule did not seem to be enforced at some of the places The Sunday Times checked out.

Kim Keat Palm Market and Food Centre in Toa Payoh Lorong 7 saw snaking queues for many stalls, as did the hawker centre at Tampines Block 201, with all tables filled when ST visited.

At Ang Mo Kio Central Market and Food Centre, several groups of four were spotted sharing tables. People were also seen sitting on seats that had been crossed out and were not meant to be used.

ST did not see any safe distancing ambassadors at these places.

Administrative assistant Angel Tan, 43, who was at the food centre in Ang Mo Kio with her two daughters for lunch, said safe distancing rules for queueing were not displayed or enforced.

"There are no stickers to show how far patrons should stand from one another while queueing so you have to check," she said.

With the rise in Covid-19 community case numbers, her family tries to eat at home as often as possible.

The stricter measures were imposed from yesterday to May 30 after the recent spike in cases.

The rule reducing group sizes also applies to households, which can now receive only five distinct visitors a day, a step back to Phase 2 of Singapore's reopening.

A 26-year-old who was dining in Ang Mo Kio and wanted to be known only as Mr Christian said: "Things are more or less the same and it's still hard to find a seat for lunch...maybe because it's the first day of (the rule) implementation."

He visits the food centre four or five times a week.

"I am a bit concerned about the lack of safe distancing," he added.

He said he had to rearrange plans to go kayaking with six friends because of the tightened rules.

"The new rules are to be expected because I didn't see much safe distancing during Phase 3, especially in areas outside stores and in the lifts. People were behaving like there were no rules," he added.

Mr Raymond Tan, 49, who was having lunch in Tampines, said he had no choice but to dine out as he is in the midst of moving house.

"But I'm taking it easy - life goes on. We can't be worrying about everything all the time," said Mr Tan, who runs operations at an NTUC Foodfare outlet.

Food stall owners were not too pleased with measures being tightened, fearing it means fewer customers.

Mr Hamzah Muhammad, an employee at a roti prata stall in the Afghanistan Family Restaurant, a halal coffee shop in Tampines, said business had been quite bad this year. The Muslim fasting month helped to bring back some business in the evening, he said.

Even so, the stricter rules mean there can be only about 20 tables, down from the 60 tables his restaurant could accommodate before the pandemic.

Mr Tan Fong Chiew, 60, a cashier at a bread store in Ang Mo Kio, said the number of customers had fallen by about 30 per cent this weekend. "We have no time to think about the pandemic, we're just thinking of how to survive," he told ST in Mandarin.

Some Singaporeans said they had to change their plans ahead of Mother's Day.

Housewife Cheryl Tan, 36, who was at a coffee shop in Toa Payoh with her three daughters, said: "We can't have big family gatherings now. We had plans to go out for Mother's Day but we had to cancel everything, because I have three children. So with myself and my husband, that already hits the limit."


  • Additional reporting by Linette Lai
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 09, 2021, with the headline 'Eateries remain crowded on first day of tightened rules'. Subscribe