Fresh fish and seafood stallholders not allowed to operate unless PCR test result negative: NEA, MOH

Affected fish and seafood stallholders can also go to specified regional screening centres for testing. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - All stallholders selling fresh fish and seafood at markets managed by the National Environment Agency (NEA) or operators appointed by the agency cannot resume business until they obtain a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test result.

The move is to prevent a further spread of Covid-19 infections after the emergence of a cluster involving fishmongers who visited the Jurong Fishery Port, NEA and the Ministry of Health (MOH) said in a joint statement on Sunday (July 18).

The fishmongers had gone to the port to collect their stock to sell at the wet markets, bringing the size of the cluster to 56 as at Sunday.

Fishmongers have tested positive for Covid-19 in 12 more markets, said MOH early on Sunday morning, including Amoy Street Food Centre, Chong Pang Market and Food Centre, Whampoa Wet Market, and Telok Blangah Crescent Block 11.

The statement added that stallholders not selling fresh fish or seafood can continue to operate while testing takes place over the next few days.

However, all stallholders and stall assistants should get tested, said NEA and MOH.

People should avoid crowds at food centres and markets, and visit during off-peak hours where possible, the statement said.

They should also strictly observe safe management measures, it added.

The fishmongers will receive an SMS Health Risk Warning (HRW) from MOH, if they have not already been sent one, meaning that they will be required by law to get a PCR test at designated testing centres.

While awaiting for their results, they will be required to self-isolate and not leave their homes until their test result comes back negative.

They will be able to reopen their stalls and resume business once they have tested negative.

However, they will still be issued self-test antigen rapid test (ART) kits and are required to self-administer an ART on the seventh day since their last known exposure to likely Covid-19 cases.

This will be followed by another PCR test that they have to undergo at designated testing centres around the 14th day from the date of their last known exposure to likely Covid-19 cases.

Fishmongers can also walk in for testing at selected regional screening centres - the former Da Qiao Primary School in Ang Mo Kio, the former Coral Primary School in Pasir Ris, the former Bedok North Secondary School, the former Bishan Park Secondary School and the former Shuqun Secondary School.

MOH is also working with NEA to conduct Covid-19 testing for all stallholders and stall assistants at market stalls and cooked food stalls in hawker centres and markets managed by NEA or NEA-appointed operators.

They will get an SMS notification, with details of the scheduled test.

Fishmongers hurriedly storing away their supply of fish after being told by a safe distancing ambassador from NEA to stop selling their fish at Kovan 209 Market and Food Centre on July 18, 2021. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

When The Straits Times visited Kovan Market and Food Centre at Block 209, Hougang Street 21 at about 7am, NEA safe distancing ambassadors were seen telling fishmongers to stop sales and pack up their stalls.

Some fishmongers were unhappy with the order, and said they should have been given advance notice.

A few of them had already got an extra supply of fish from Senoko Fishery Port to cater to their customers' needs.

A fishmonger, who declined to be named, said she had stored her fish in ice but was worried that they might turn bad before she could sell off her stock.

When ST visited a wet market in Pasir Ris Drive 6 at about 11am, a fishmonger who wanted to be known only as Ms Mei was the only one still selling fish.

But her supply was dwindling, and there were only two fish left on the ice bed in her stall. Her stall assistants could be seen packing up fish parts into styrofoam boxes.

The market is not under the list of wet markets on NEA's website.

Ms Mei said: "There is no more supply coming from Jurong Fishery Port, so I don't have much to sell too. There were customers today asking for fish, but there isn't much to sell them."

She has yet to receive an SMS Health Risk Warning from the authorities.

A fishmonger who wanted to known only as Mr Lim, 68, at 216 Bedok North Street 1 (Market and Food Centre) told ST the authorities visited the market at around 3am on Sunday and asked fish stall owners to shut and have their swab tests taken.

A number of fishmongers were directed to a quick test centre that had been set up at Bedok Interchange, he added.

"I managed to sell all my stock by Saturday noon," he said, adding that the fishmongers were told to isolate at home and to watch the news for more details on when they can reopen.

A community testing site set up next to Bedok Interchange Hawker Centre on July 18, 2021. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

He said he procures his stock from both Jurong Fishery Port and Senoko Fishery Port, and that around 24 fish stalls at the market also get their seafood from both ports.

While the Jurong Fishery Port has more than 100 merchants and attracts up to 3,000 customers daily, its counterpart at Senoko operates on a much smaller scale, with just 25 merchants and between 700 and 1,000 customers daily.

The larger port handles about 30 per cent of all Singapore's seafood imports, including those that arrive by land and air, said the Singapore Food Agency on Saturday.

  • Additional reporting by Adeline Tan and Kevin Lim

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