Coffeeshop operators to check customers' Covid-19 vaccination status at fixed points

There is no need for coffee shops to implement a single access point or mandatory access points, or fence up their premises.
There is no need for coffee shops to implement a single access point or mandatory access points, or fence up their premises.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A pragmatic approach in implementing vaccination-differentiation rules in hawker centres and coffee shops will be adopted from Wednesday (Oct 13).

There is no need for coffee shops to implement a single access point or mandatory access points, or fence up their premises, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu said in a pre-recorded video released on Tuesday (Oct 12).

Hawker centres, on the other hand, already have access controls. 

There are more than 100 hawker centres, each with varying layouts and multiple access points, and more than 1,000 coffeeshops, located within publicly accessible areas such as Housing Board void decks, the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) said in a press statement last Saturday (Oct 9). 

The porous nature of these places, which are frequently visited by members of the community, has been a challenge for SafeEntry compliance, the agencies added. 

Having a single access point in coffee shops with manpower to manage it will be operationally challenging, Ms Fu said.

Rather, the Government will need coffeeshop operators to check the vaccination status of their customers at fixed points, and remind those who are unvaccinated that they are not allowed to dine in, Ms Fu added.

Under the new measures, only vaccinated people are allowed to dine in at hawker centres and coffee shops. Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated persons are only allowed to buy takeaway food from these places. 

The measures are aimed at protecting unvaccinated individuals from infection amid the surge in Covid-19 cases as dining in remains a higher-risk activity, given the constant flow of diners chatting and eating, with their masks off, in close proximity with one another, said NEA and SFA.

The authorities will be conducting spot checks at both hawker centres and coffee shops to ensure that the rules are being enforced. 

Agencies may focus their checks during peak hours and at hotspots that have larger congregations of unvaccinated seniors, said NEA and SFA.

These enforcement efforts will be selective and pragmatic, and will not inconvenience the large majority of vaccinated diners, Ms Fu said.

"Our enforcement teams will go around and at certain times ask certain selected diners for their vaccination status," she added.

"And if they are not vaccinated, we will advise them and take down their names. If they continue to dine or repeatedly come back to dine-in again, we will then have no choice but to enforce and fine them."

NEA and SFA will also work with town councils and coffee shop operators respectively to deploy personnel to verbally advise patrons on these rules.

Additionally, NEA will work with the Hawkers’ Associations for stallholders to advise regular patrons who are unvaccinated to get vaccinated and to refrain from dining in. 

To ensure space and safe distancing between diners as well as stallholders, more seats and tables at particularly congested hawker centres will be cordoned off, if necessary.

"What we are trying to do is really to discourage unvaccinated seniors from mingling in the community spaces. This is to really to protect them from serious illnesses," Ms Fu stressed.

If operators are aware of unvaccinated people dining in, they should remind them not to do so and to quickly leave the premises, she added.

Signages will also be displayed at the entrances of hawker centres and coffee shops to remind patrons. Regular reminders will also be made via the public announcement system where available.