Coronavirus: Flouting safe distancing measures, abusing enforcement officers will not be tolerated, says Masagos

Those who abuse enforcement officers on the ground will have to bear the full brunt of the law. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
A safe distancing ambassador guides people queueing to enter Clementi Mall on April 22, 2020. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Those who disregard safe distancing measures are putting not just themselves but also their families at risk of Covid-19 infection, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said on Friday (April 24).

He also warned that those who abuse enforcement officers on the ground will have to bear the full brunt of the law.

"Whether you are old or young you should be staying home," he stressed, adding that those who think "it is fun" to flout the rules could end up being infected and infecting others around them as well, said Mr Masagos during an interview with The Straits Times' weekday talk show The Big Story on Friday (Apr 24).

His comments come after a spate of offences relating to regulations meant to stem the spread of Covid-19.

The police have reported a rise in the number of abuse cases against the 3,000 officers and safe distance ambassadors deployed across the island daily to ensure compliance with circuit breaker measures.

ST reported this week that eight people - seven Singaporean men and a Taiwanese woman - have been charged with offences such as assault and failing to wear masks when outside.

Some of them had verbally abused public servants who told them to wear masks.

Another group of six youths were fined by the police for gathering at a bridge near Lorong Halus and flouting safe distancing measures.

Mr Masagos said those who violate safe distancing measures generally fall into three categories - they either "don't know, don't care, or are defiant".

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He noted that young people must realise their acts of defiance could have disastrous results.

"It (could) cause the disease to be spread among themselves or their loved ones, the consequences will be unbearable," he said.

Singapore has implemented stringent safe distancing measures as part of circuit breaker measures, to break the chain of transmission of Covid-19.

Under these measures, which are in place until June 1, people can leave their homes only to perform essential tasks - such as buying groceries, see a doctor, or if they are an essential worker - and must wear a mask if they do.

First-time offenders who flout the rules have to pay a composition sum of $300.

"At the end of the day, it's up to us to keep our tempers down. Everyone is going through this problem together," said Mr Masagos.

"I know that staying at home, being cooped up is a very difficult situation to cope with. But let's just hunker down together, this is something we do together, nobody is special, nobody has special treatment."

But he acknowledged that the elderly might find the loneliness of staying home "a little bit difficult to cope with".

"But there are things they can do, we are also reaching out to this group with the Ministry of Social and Family Development to understand what is bugging them at home, and what we can do to help them stay at home," he said.

While the numbers of those infected with Covid-19 are stabilising, the goal is for transmissions in the local community to "go down to single digits, or even zero", only then can movement restrictions be lifted gradually, he added.

"This is the message we are giving to people. We are not here to curb people's freedom. We are here to ensure that all of us come out of this alive and healthy," he said.

During the interview, Mr Masagos, who heads the SG Clean Taskforce that aims to get Singaporeans to adopt better hygiene practices, said it will be mandatory for food handlers to wear masks even after Covid-19 passes.

"Going forward, this is something that we want to make permanent," he said, adding that the authorities will be rigorous in ensuring it is complied with.

Those who fail to do so will be fined, he added.

On April 13, the Singapore Food Agency made it compulsory for workers preparing food and drinks to wear masks or face shields. F&B operators who do not comply face a $5,000 fine and risk having their licences revoked.

Other new cleaning standards and frequencies that have been put in place because of Covid-19 will also be maintained beyond the end of the outbreak, the minister said.

Hawker centres, schools, childcare facilities and eldercare centres and other premises have been required to undergo compulsory cleaning at required frequencies under new rules announced last month.

He also addressed Muslims observing the fasting month of Ramadan, which started on Friday.

He urged them to adjust to new norms under the circuit breaker. Because of Covid-19, mosques have been closed, and Ramadan bazaars like the one in Geylang Serai, have not been allowed to operate.

Mr Masagos, who is also Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs, said the "most important thing is to observe fasting as well as to give alms to the poor".

"These are the fundamental acts of worship in Ramadan. Beyond that, we have to adapt and adjust to the new norm and take the opportunity to pray with our families at home and build good relationships going forward," he said.

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