Coronavirus: About half of Singapore's markets will have crowd management measures by Friday

Buffalo Road market on April 7, 2020. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - More markets will have crowd management measures in place by Friday (April 10) as part of the Government's circuit breaker to curb the spread of the coronavirus here.

And from Thursday, government enforcement officers who come across people gathered in public will issue written warnings to them immediately, before dispersing them, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli on Facebook on Wednesday.

"Subsequent infringements will incur a fine or prosecution in court," he added.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said on Wednesday that 15 markets islandwide put crowd management measures in place on the same say.

By Friday, another 25 markets managed by the agency or NEA-appointed operators will follow suit. This means 40 markets, about half of all markets in Singapore, would have these crowd management measures in place.

The crowd control measures include controlled entry and exit points where the number of patrons who can enter is managed by the size and space in the market. Should a queue form to get into the market, members of the public are advised to keep at least 1m apart.

In light of the long weekend and more people telecommuting, NEA advised the public to adjust their marketing hours.

The agency said not visit the market too frequently and limit these trips to once a week as an example.

The public should also try to visit the market on weekdays where crowds are 30 per smaller than on weekends. If this is unavoidable they should avoid peak periods between 7.30am and 10am.

Those in vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, should avoid visiting the markets on weekends and get help from other members in the household or neighbours to shop for them.

Mr Masagos on Wednesday said that the Government's enforcement officers are still finding people, young and old, gathering in groups day and night on the second day of the circuit breaker that kicked in on Tuesday to limit the spread of the coronavirus here.

"Exercise groups are still meeting in the parks. A good number still do not observe safe distancing when queueing, especially in the markets. These are where clusters of infections can be born," he said.

Enforcement officers have issued 3,000 advisories on Wednesday, fewer than the 7,000 issued to people for breaching the stricter safe distancing measures on Tuesday.

Mr Masagos said the smaller figure was due to groups dispersing when they were advised by enforcement officers. "The point is that there are still so many gatherings in public places. This is very worrying," he said, adding that advisories will, from Thursday, be issued to people in groups immediately before they are dispersed.

Meanwhile, over 900 advisories were issued at markets and hawker centres to people who did not practice safe distancing on Wednesday.

Of these, 611 written advisories were handed out at cooked food sections to those who sat on the seats in dining areas or did not keep at least 1m apart when queuing.

A total of 307 of these were issued to those who did not practice safe distancing when making purchases at stalls in markets.

A further three written warnings were given to patrons who did not comply even after receiving written advisories.

NEA said that strict actions will be taken against members of the public who breach safe distancing measures.

"The cooperation of all patrons is required so that further stricter measures will not be necessary beyond the current circuit breaker to halt the transmission of Covid-19 in Singapore," it added.

Under the Infectious Diseases Act, anyone convicted of an offence can be fined up to $10,000 or jailed for up to six months, or both, for the first offence.

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