Coronavirus: Hawkers hope enhanced cleaning will draw back crowds

Cleaners cleaning the Adam Food Centre on March 2, 2020. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Business at Adam Food Centre has taken a hit since the coronavirus outbreak, with some stalls reporting 30 per cent less takings.

But hawkers there are hopeful that the crowds will return, with the centre awarded the SG Clean quality mark last Wednesday (Feb 26).

"Business has been down, but we're trying our best to get the community and people back, to show them that we're cleaning the place up and not being complacent... showing that we also do our part as hawkers," the vice-chairman of the centre's Hawkers' Association, 51-year-old Sumadi Sapari, told reporters on Monday.

The SG Clean campaign was launched on Feb 16 to raise cleanliness and safeguard public health amid the outbreak.

To be awarded the SG Clean quality mark, hawker centres and stalls have to meet certain enhanced hygiene standards put in place by the authorities.

These include ensuring food preparation areas and equipment are sanitised, waste is handled properly and systems are in place to monitor staff health.

Checks are carried out by the authorities to ensure standards are being maintained.

The quality mark is given to stalls by the Singapore Food Agency, while the National Environment Agency is in charge of giving the mark to hawker centres.

As of last Friday, 1,403 hawker stalls and 12 hawker centres, including Adam Food Centre, have been awarded the quality mark.

The hawker centre was closed on Monday for its quarterly spring cleaning, which now involves enhanced measures to combat Covid-19.

Quality assurance officer James Tan of Clean Solutions, the cleaning contractor overseeing the spring cleaning at Adam Food Centre, said that the floor of the hawker centre is now mopped with bleach and left to soak for around 20 minutes before being sprayed with a high pressure water jet.

Hawkers cleaning their stalls at the Adam Food Centre on March 2, 2020. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Previously, a degreasing agent was used instead of bleach.

And while in the past, cleaners would use alkaline-based sanitiser to wipe down surfaces, such as tables or tray return stations, this has since been replaced with a stronger chlorine-based disinfectant.

The frequency of cleaning at the centre has also been stepped up. Water coolers are disinfected every four hours, up from two to three times a day previously.

Tables, previously cleaned only after customers had finished eating, are now additionally wiped down every two hours regardless of whether a customer has eaten there.

And toilets, which used to be cleaned based on human traffic, are now sanitised every two hours with the chlorine-based agent.

Stallholders have stepped up measures to fight the virus as well.

Adam Food Centre hawker Rita Noor Mihar Banum, 46, said she and others in her stall take their temperature every day, and disinfect the stall three to four times a day.

"Last time, you'd only do that (disinfect) when you close the shop," she added.

Ms Rita, who sells roti prata and mee goreng, among other things, puts in extra effort to keep the stall clean during off-peak hours to ensure operations are not disrupted.

She said it cost her around $50 to $100 every month to purchase disinfectants and other cleaning supplies for enhanced cleaning.

But it is the right thing to do, she added.

"You're a hawker, you're going to serve food, this is your responsibility to ensure that safety standards are there," she said.

Ms Rita believes the SG Clean mark would help bring customers back to the centre.

"It gives recognition that your stall and the centre have been checked," she said.

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Mr Sumadi, who has been working at the hawker centre for around 40 years and started running his own mee soto stall from 2014, said hawkers there are "more prepared" now than they were during the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) crisis in 2003.

"In time, we hope to see customers come back here again and be happy," he said.


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