SINGAPORE - The National Environment Agency (NEA) has stepped up cleaning efforts at hawker centres across Singapore in the light of the coronavirus situation.
Public spaces in hawker centres are being cleaned every four hours, up from once a day. Tables, both used and unused, are being cleaned every two hours and so are toilets, which are cleaned with a chlorine-based disinfectant every two hours.
Disinfectant has been added to the hand soap solutions provided in the hawker centres and will be constantly topped up by cleaners.
The NEA and Singapore Food Agency (SFA) issued a joint advisory with sanitation and hygiene guidelines to stallholders in all 114 hawker centres and wet markets on Jan 29.
Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor said on Thursday (Feb 6) that NEA has been working with cleaning contractors to clean frequently touched areas such as handrails, tables and chairs more often.
Dr Khor also stressed that members of the public need to maintain high standards of personal hygiene to keep the virus at bay.
Those eating at hawker centres can do their part by returning their trays after they are done with their meal, she said.
"Not only will that keep the tables clean, it will also help with reducing the workload of the cleaners so they can have more time to focus on upkeeping the general public cleanliness in the hawker centres," she added.
Dr Khor was speaking to the media at Tiong Bahru Market, where she observed the cleaning process and reminded hawkers to upkeep hygiene standards.
Town councils have also stepped up cleaning in public housing estates across Singapore to help prevent widespread transmission of the virus, which first emerged in Wuhan in central China late last year.
As of Thursday, 28 cases of the coronavirus have been reported in Singapore. Of these, seven, including a six-month-old baby, are among the first cluster of local transmission.
The Ministry of Health, however, noted that there is no evidence of widespread community transmission in Singapore.
Mr Loh Teck Seng, 65, chairman of the Hawkers' Association, said it is in the hawkers' interests to keep their stalls clean so businesses can run as usual.
"If anything happens here, we might have to close but we still have to pay rent and pay workers. Thankfully, for now, it's all under control and our business hasn't really been affected," said Mr Loh, who runs a cooked food stall in Tiong Bahru Market.
Housewife Celine Pung, 52, who goes to hawker centres with her family at weekends for lunch, said: "We'll still go out for our regular weekly meals, so it's good to know that the tables and chairs will be cleaned regularly; it's not 100 per cent but every bit helps."