SINGAPORE - More help is on the way for food and beverage (F&B) as well as retail businesses, as Singapore tightens its Covid-19 restrictions to curb the spread of the virus within the community.
Enterprise Singapore (ESG) reintroduced two booster packages on Sunday (May 16) to help firms in these sectors defray operational costs and enter the online market during this period of heightened alert.
A Food Delivery Booster Package will subsidise part of their delivery costs, while an E-commerce Booster Package will get local retailers, including heartland shops, to extend their reach online.
Singapore hunkered down on Sunday - the first day of the new tightened Covid-19 restrictions - with fewer people out and about at shopping malls, parks, hawker centres, and wet markets across the island. Until June 13, people are allowed out only in groups of two, and dining in is prohibited.
On Sunday, the Health Ministry reported 49 new coronavirus cases, including 38 in the community.
In a Facebook post, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said the latest measures "are necessary to protect ourselves, our families and our loved ones". Touching on the targeted help for sectors like F&B, he noted that the government will monitor and adjust the support schemes, if there is a need.
The next few weeks are going to be very critical, said Mr Wong, urging the public to stay home.
"Let's continue to stay united and vigilant, and take care of one another. We will get through this together."
To help F&B establishments tide through this period, ESG will provide funding for five percentage points of the commission cost charged by food delivery platforms Deliveroo, foodpanda and GrabFood, through the Food Delivery Booster Package.
If a platform's commission is 25 per cent of the total delivery transaction value, for instance, the commission cost payable to them will be cut to 20 per cent with ESG funding.
Meanwhile, businesses can save 20 per cent on their delivery costs if they fulfil orders through third-party logistics firms such as Lalamove, Zeek Logistics, and Pickupp.
The agency's support is for orders made from Sunday to June 15.
To be eligible, F&B outlets must sell food prepared on the premise for immediate consumption. This includes smaller establishments like hawker stalls and larger outfits such as caterers and restaurants.
To help brick-and-mortar retailers establish an online presence, ESG is working with e-commerce platforms like Shopee and Qoo10 under the E-commerce Booster Package.
These local retailers can have up to 80 per cent of qualifying costs waived, the agency said. This is capped at $8,000.
The platform providers will work with the retailers to curate and list their products for at least six months, participate in promotion campaigns, fulfil orders and perform basic data analytics of sales.
But affected F&B outlets and retailers also receive help from sources other than the Government, with some companies chipping in to help as well.
Grab Singapore, for instance, will be extending commission rebates for eligible merchants, on top of support from the ESG. Those operating in National Environment Agency-managed hawker centres will enjoy a full commission rebate on all orders during this period.
Mall operators too will be providing assistance to their retailers.
CapitaLand, which runs malls such as Ion Orchard and Plaza Singapura, said on its website that it will offer affected retailers help in the form of rental rebates and operational support to conduct online sales through its digital platforms.
Mapletree Commercial Trust, whose properties include VivoCity, reaffirmed its commitment to offering rental and operating assistance where warranted to its retail tenants. It has implemented support packages comprising more than $70 million of rental rebates to help eligible retail tenants offset, on average, over four months of fixed rent since the pandemic started.
The Straits Times observed thinner crowds when it visited several malls on Sunday. A few shopping centres such as Jem and Paragon were quiet, as shoppers did not linger unnecessarily.
The Orchard Road shopping belt was a ghost town. Malls such as Ion Orchard, and Takashimaya had few visitors, with many keeping to the two-to-a-group rule.
Many eateries there saw a dip in sales. Some even rolled out takeaway discounts of 20 to 25 per cent off to cope with the poor turnout.
A staff at Indonesian Restaurant Tambuah Mas in Paragon said sales have gone down by 90 per cent. "The staff are worried about the decreasing business and the possibility of a salary cut," she added.
Elsewhere, Parkway Parade was deserted during lunch hour except for pockets of people waiting outside eateries for takeaways and buying groceries. Eateries served cooked food in takeaway containers instead of plates and bowls.
Business owner Sherry See, 39, who visited the mall, said: "It's much quieter today. On previous Sundays, you usually couldn't get a table at the food court."
Additional reporting by Sherlyn Sim, Yeo Shu Hui, Ann Williams, Wong Shiying and Jean Iau.