Hawkers in S'pore welcome news of subsidies, rental waivers amid tightened Covid-19 measures

Even as they welcomed the news of the aid, some hawkers have called for more to be done amid the uncertainty.
Even as they welcomed the news of the aid, some hawkers have called for more to be done amid the uncertainty.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
Mr Khong Wai Keong, who sells char siew rice at Kovan Hougang Market and Food Centre.
Mr Khong Wai Keong, who sells char siew rice at Kovan Hougang Market and Food Centre.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
Mr Will Chua (left) and Mr Damien Foo, co-owners of a claypot chicken rice stall at Kovan Hougang Market and Food Centre.
Mr Will Chua (left) and Mr Damien Foo, co-owners of a claypot chicken rice stall at Kovan Hougang Market and Food Centre.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - Hawkers welcomed the news that they will be supported with subsidies and waivers in rental fees amid phase two dine-in restrictions, which took effect on May 16, but said more needs to be done because of the uncertainty.

Mr Khong Wai Keong, 54, who sells char siew rice at Kovan Hougang Market and Food Centre, said: "It's good that there are subsidies, but I'd rather have more customers than lower rental."

Ms Elayne Ang, 40, who sells carrot cake and hokkien mee in Marine Parade Central Market and Food Centre, said: "It's very helpful in reducing overhead cost, but I'm not sure whether two months of rental waiver is enough. Even when restrictions ease, there will be a lingering effect."

But hawkers said they were better prepared this time, having experienced the circuit breaker last year.

Eight stallholders from three hawker centres whom The Straits Times spoke to said they have tapped delivery platforms and Facebook groups or set up a phone-in system for customers to order takeaways.

Ms Ang, for example, started a phone-in system for takeaways following the circuit breaker period last year. Since May 16 this year, she has been receiving about five to eight calls a day instead of the usual three a week.

Mr Will Chua, 32, who sells claypot chicken rice at Kovan Hougang Market and Food Centre, advertises his business on Facebook groups and arranges food deliveries. He has been doing so since the circuit breaker period.

"It has helped... as we are able to get customers living in other places. Sometimes people also do group buys," he said. 

But his business is now down by about 50 per cent, after dropping by about 20 per cent during the circuit breaker.

Mr Jao Shan Koing, 47, who sells beef noodles, also at the Kovan Hougang food centre, said his usual 200 walk-in customers a day is currently down to about 80.

Mr Sumadi Sapari, 53, who sells mee rebus and mee soto at Adam Road Food Centre and is the sole breadwinner of his family of five, said: "Since Covid-19 started, we have been keeping about three to six months of savings to sustain losses just in case."

When asked about the current restrictions, Mr Jao said: "I hope it's only one month and not a few months like last year, and that it all gets better soon."