Zika outbreak: Diners stay away from affected areas

SPH Brightcove Video
Members of Parliament Tin Pei Ling and Maliki Osman visited homes in Aljunied Crescent on Wednesday as part of ongoing efforts to reach out to residents to educate them on Zika prevention.
Empty seats are seen at Macpherson Market and Food Centre at about 12.30pm on Aug 31, 2016. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Madam Poh Poh Gek in front of her vegetarian stall at Circuit Road Food Centre, on Aug 31, 2016. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Residents are steering clear of open-air food options, almost a week after Singapore reported its first locally transmitted cases of the Zika virus.

There were numerous empty tables and no crowds to be seen, when The Straits Times visited Macpherson Market and Food Centre at lunchtime on Wednesday (Aug 31).

The food centre is in the heart of Paya Lebar Way, an area where Zika has spread beyond the initial cluster in Aljunied Crescent and Sims Drive.

On Tuesday, 26 cases of locally transmitted Zika infections were confirmed, with five of those infected having lived or worked in Paya Lebar Way and Kallang Way.

Ms Cindy Chen, 41, who works at a vegetarian stall, estimated that the number of customers had dropped by 40 per cent since the news of locally transmitted Zika broke over the weekend.

She said that she and her boss, Mr Edwin Lee, 49, were on their guard against the mosquito-borne disease.

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"We are taking precautions not to accumulate water," Ms Chen said, adding that she sprayed repellent on herself.

Madam Poh Poh Gek, who runs a vegetarian stall at Circuit Road Food Centre, said that business is less than half of what it used to be, although the 62-year-old admitted that other factors, such as stricter parking enforcement, might play a part.

The food centre is smack in the middle of Paya Lebar Way and Kallang Way, but Madam Poh said that she does not feel the need to slather herself in mosquito repellent as she lives in Punggol, which has so far been unaffected by the spread of the disease.

But not all those out and about were aware that the two areas have become the latest active Zika clusters.

Mr Dennis Sing, 50, who works in Ubi, said that he had not heard the latest news when he came to Macpherson Market and Food Centre for lunch.

"Now that I know there is Zika here, I will definitely think twice and cut down on coming here," he said.

To date, the total number of local transmissions is 82, four days after a Malaysian woman living and working in Aljunied was identified as the first known case of a person being infected locally.

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