Coronavirus: Singapore

Fewer people seen at places frequented by migrant workers

Shoppers at Tekka Market yesterday. When The Straits Times visited Little India around noon yesterday, the streets were emptier than usual, though most shops remained open for business.
Shoppers at Tekka Market yesterday. When The Straits Times visited Little India around noon yesterday, the streets were emptier than usual, though most shops remained open for business.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Public spaces usually abuzz with the chatter of migrant workers enjoying their day off were quiet yesterday afternoon, the first day of stricter Covid-19 measures.

Until June 13, people are allowed out only in groups of two and dining in is banned.

When The Straits Times visited Little India around noon, the streets were emptier than usual, though most shops remained open for business.

Foreign workers were mostly spotted alone, carrying bags with food items and necessities. Many of them told ST they had been instructed by their employers not to leave their dormitories if possible.

Mr Pandiyan, a construction worker who goes by one name, said his employer had told him to avoid meeting his friends in the next few weeks and to limit his time spent outside to an hour.

"I feel sad that I can't meet my friends (as) there is not much to do in the dorm... but hopefully things will get better," said the 31-year-old worker from Thumbaipatti, India.

Another construction worker, Mr Sarker Mynul, 41, said the new restrictions are good: "I'd rather not meet my friends because it's safer. Though it's a bit troublesome to take away (our food), it's not a big problem."

Businesses in Little India are starting to feel the pinch of the tightened measures, with one restaurant owner fearing that his three-month-old establishment, Shiraz Alfresco, might shutter.

"The restaurant was full yesterday but look, it's completely empty today," said Mr Manoj Beniwal, 26.

At Lakshmi Kuber General Stores, which sells prayer items and necessities, store owner Sangeetha Rai, 54, said only one customer had entered her store as at 1pm.

"Weekends are usually very crowded... now it's exactly the same as during the circuit breaker last year... People don't want to take the risk of going out," she said.

The scene was livelier at Lucky Plaza, where a constant stream of foreign domestic workers was seen entering the mall around 2pm.

Five security personnel and police officers were spotted telling people who were waiting around to move along.

Ms Mary Carvan, 30, was at Lucky Plaza to send money back to the Philippines and get her fix of Jollibee fried chicken.

"I usually meet my friends at Botanic Gardens and Lucky Plaza, but now it's too risky, health is more important," she said.

Ms Carvan added that her employer had advised her to be careful and not to spend long hours outside.

Ms Janette Casagep, a foreign domestic worker also from the Philippines, said there were noticeably fewer people in Lucky Plaza when she visited around 1pm, compared with the previous Sunday.

"The new rules don't really affect me, as I usually go out with just one friend," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 17, 2021, with the headline 'Fewer people seen at places frequented by migrant workers'. Subscribe