Business as usual at Singapore's parks as most stick to routine - and new Covid-19 rules

People walking along the Rail Corridor on May 8, 2021. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
Crowd at the Upper Bukit Timah Truss Bridge at Rail Corridor (Central) on May 8, 2021. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - Popular parks in Singapore were crowded as usual on Saturday morning (May 8), the first day of tightened Covid-19 measures.

Dozens of runners, cyclists, hikers and photographers approached by The Straits Times along the Rail Corridor and at East Coast Park said they were sticking to their regular routines.

Most parkgoers abided by the new rules, in place until May 30, limiting social gatherings to groups of five from eight previously.

Student Hong Wenyang, 24, was taking photographs together with family and friends along the Rail Corridor's central section from Rail Mall to King Albert Park.

He said this was a usual weekend for them, planned before the tightened measures were announced on Tuesday - and that they were not affected in any way by the new cap on group size.

A 31-year-old, who wanted to be known only as Ms Lek, said the same. She said that her group of five friends were more conscious of the need for distancing. They had further split themselves into two groups.

Events business owner Gavin Chian, 34, observed that the trail along the Rail Corridor looked "cluttered" only when groups passed one another.

He and his friend had headed to their start point at Rail Mall earlier than usual, having predicted a larger crowd due to the gym closures, and ended up pleasantly surprised that there were "not too many people".

Mr Jeffrey, who goes by one name, was at East Coast Park at noon with his family of four.

"Usually we go to the malls, but I think they would be crowded. We wanted to avoid close contact, so we thought the park would be best," the 35-year-old said.

Under the new restrictions, indoor gyms and fitness studios are also closed - with the exception of those conducting low-intensity activities. But this had little bearing on most interviewed, who either said they preferred the outdoors or were not gymgoers.

On Saturday morning, a pop-up advisory on the National Parks Board's website reminded visitors to keep to groups of not more than five people and to observe a safe distance of at least 1m from each other.

From 8am onwards, NParks' real-time safe distancing map online displayed low visitorship levels at most green spaces throughout Singapore.

Near the Rail Mall entrance to the Rail Corridor, some groups were gathered at the Upper Bukit Timah Truss Bridge, a popular spot for photography.

From 8am onwards, NParks' real-time safe distancing map online displayed low visitorship levels at most green spaces throughout Singapore. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

But Aetos enforcement officers keeping a close watch nearby said it was not as packed as in recent times, including the May Day and Easter weekends.

The crowds and lack of safe distancing then had led to NParks officers stepping up patrols to ensure compliance with safe management measures.

At East Coast Park, and along the Rail Corridor, most people were in groups of three or four.

Over a three-hour stretch, there was only one group spotted with more than five people. The seven young people quickly split up when approached, and declined to comment.

Administrative officer Lily Choo, 57, told ST she made an early morning trip from Tampines to King Albert Park to walk the Rail Corridor with family and friends - because her regular indoor gym was shut temporarily.

At East Coast Park, and along the Rail Corridor, most people were in groups of three or four. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Mr Jeffrey, a fitness trainer by profession, thinks it would have been better to limit the number of people entering gyms than to close them altogether.

"Control the crowd and ensure proper safe distancing. I think it would have been fine," he said.

Still, he acknowledged that the new restrictions were a necessary move to tackle rising local infections. "It's a must, before we have to enter an actual lockdown."

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