COVID-19 SPECIAL

Singapore's phase 2 reopening: For many, it's refreshing to be out and about

As Singapore was abuzz with activity yesterday, The Sunday Times spoke to people who had stepped out of their homes for the first time in months to meet loved ones, go to the gym, or dine out during the first weekend of phase two.

As some queue at their favourite stalls at Tiong Bahru Market hawker centre, others eagerly tuck into their breakfast after so many weeks of not being able to have meals at eateries. People queueing at the Din Tai Fung restaurant at Jem shopping mall
People waiting their turn to buy durians from a stall in Ang Mo Kio town centre yesterday, while a customer who had already made his purchase started enjoying the fruit at one of the tables set up there. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
As some queue at their favourite stalls at Tiong Bahru Market hawker centre, others eagerly tuck into their breakfast after so many weeks of not being able to have meals at eateries. People queueing at the Din Tai Fung restaurant at Jem shopping mall
As some queue at their favourite stalls at Tiong Bahru Market hawker centre, others eagerly tuck into their breakfast after so many weeks of not being able to have meals at eateries. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
As some queue at their favourite stalls at Tiong Bahru Market hawker centre, others eagerly tuck into their breakfast after so many weeks of not being able to have meals at eateries. People queueing at the Din Tai Fung restaurant at Jem shopping mall
People queueing at the Din Tai Fung restaurant at Jem shopping mall in Jurong East at 11am, all ready to enjoy an early lunch out. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
Mr Shahril Mohd Yassin, his wife Natasha Yusoff and their two daughters at Ang Mo Kio Central on a grocery-shopping trip yesterday, which was her husband's day off from his work as a storeman.
Mr Shahril Mohd Yassin, his wife Natasha Yusoff and their two daughters at Ang Mo Kio Central on a grocery-shopping trip yesterday, which was her husband’s day off from his work as a storeman. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Families enjoying some fresh air at the park and playground beside United Square Shopping Mall.
Families enjoying some fresh air at the park and playground beside United Square Shopping Mall. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

THORNY FATHER'S DAY TREAT

Phase two made Father's Day doubly special this year for retiree Senin Moin.

For two months, Mr Senin, 69, could see and talk to his son and daughter and their children only on a screen, through the videoconferencing application Zoom.

It was how the family celebrated Hari Raya last month.

When some restrictions were lifted in phase one of the reopening earlier this month, Mr Senin was finally able to receive his children and grandchildren, two at a time, at his home, where he lives with his wife, who is in her 60s.

Even then, it was from a distance.

And the hugs and clasping of hands will still have to wait, though social gatherings of up to five people are possible now in phase two.

Nonetheless, it was cause for celebration.

His daughter organised a small get-together yesterday, and as a treat, Mr Senin went from his home in Yishun to Ang Mo Kio yesterday to pick up $150 worth of a family favourite - durian.

"I know the stall quite well. I like their durian, the quality is good," he said.

"I said I would spend some money on durian because it is a bit of a special occasion."

LOVEBIRDS REUNITED

Before April 7, Ms Melissa Ngiam, 24, and Mr Teo Liang Ming, 25, spent every Friday evening together.

Unable to see each other during the circuit breaker, they made do with online "dates" - not satisfactory, but it could not be helped.

The moment phase two was announced, they immediately made dinner reservations.

Over dinner at Spanish restaurant Olivia in Keong Saik Road, Ms Ngiam, who is a teacher, expressed her fervent wish that there would not be a second wave of infections.

She said: "I've made plans to go out until the end of next month already, so I hope nothing else happens."

Mr Teo, a university student, added: "It feels surreal to be out."

'A FAMILIAR YET NEW WORLD'

Operations analyst Marcus Lim, 26, stepped out of his home in Kovan yesterday with his sister for the first time since the start of the circuit breaker.

Their mission: to get bubble tea from Playmade at Nex in Serangoon, just one MRT stop away.

Mr Lim told The Sunday Times: "It was rather refreshing to step out and see some normality. It feels nostalgic because we have not been out for so long."

However, normality had also changed. "With everyone wearing masks and maintaining a safe distance, it feels like a familiar yet new world," he added.

In this new phase of reopening, the Health Ministry has urged people to still observe precautions, like keeping a safe distance from others, wearing a mask in public and washing hands often.

Full-time national serviceman Loh Zi Yin, 21, was glad to go to a gym near his Ang Mo Kio home and meet some friends for a meal at AMK Hub afterwards, but he felt some unease, nonetheless, to be mingling with others.

"I'm happy to see more humans... but the worry is still there," he said.

Buangkok resident Vinitha Thiro Selvan said she has mostly stayed at home with her one-year-old daughter, but her husband could hardly wait to get out of the house on Friday to meet his friends for dinner.

The 35-year-old educator said a visit to the Singapore Botanic Gardens is top of the family's list as they made plans for an outing or two.

"I miss my interactions with friends and having a relaxing time. We also want to travel out to another country as a family when the time is right," she added.

BORDER WOES

Phase two did not change things much for Madam Natasha Yusoff, 40, who has gone out once every two weeks to buy groceries since the circuit breaker began.

Stepping out of the house yesterday was not as big a deal for her as it might have been for other people.

In fact, she lamented the bigger crowds at Ang Mo Kio Central, where she had gone with her husband, Mr Shahril Mohd Yassin, 41, and their two daughters, aged three and one, to shop and get some fresh air.

"It is my husband's day off, so we went out together. But I'm not so happy because there are a lot of people," she said.

Her husband, a storeman, is a Malaysian, and they also have a home across the Causeway, so Madam Natasha hopes the family can go there soon.

The border between Singapore and Malaysia has been closed since March 18, when Putrajaya first imposed movement restrictions.

Malaysia's government is in talks with Singapore about reopening the border to citizens of both countries.

Said Madam Natasha, a housewife: "We are waiting for the agreement so that we can go and see my husband's family."

• Additional reporting by Anjali Raguraman and Malavika Menon

Join ST's Telegram channel here and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 21, 2020, with the headline Singapore's phase 2 reopening: For many, it's refreshing to be out and about. Subscribe