Office crowds thin out on first day of tightened Covid-19 curbs in S'pore

People eat in pairs during lunch hour at the basement of Ngee Ann city on Sept 27, 2021. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Raffles Place on the first day of tighter restrictions on Sept 27, 2021. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN
Office buildings were noticeably less crowded. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN
Raffles Place on the first day of tighter restrictions on Sept 27, 2021. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN
Passengers onboard a Downtown Line train heading to the city on the morning of the first day of tighter restrictions on Sept 27, 2021. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN
People eating breakfast at Toast Box at VivoCity on Sept 27, 2021. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Parks were also emptied of crowd on Sept 27, 2021. ST PHOTO: YEO SHU HUI

SINGAPORE - Closure is on the horizon for Good Old Taste, a cafe at The Arcade shopping mall in Raffles Place, as it copes with the latest round of Covid-19 curbs that kick in on Monday (Sept 27).

The changing Covid-19 measures regarding working from home and dining in at food and beverage (F&B) establishments have crippled its business permanently. Its manager, Ms Linda Koh, 50, said that the latest state of heightened alert - limiting diners to groups of two regardless of vaccination status, and requiring employees to work from home - could just seal its fate.

"We're waiting to die and just leaving it up to fate," Ms Koh said.

Since the circuit breaker, which took place from April 7 to June 1 last year, its business has shrunk by about 75 to 80 per cent.

If the latest tightened Covid-19 measures keep up for another three months, Good Old Taste cafe, which has been operating at The Arcade over the past 23 years, will shut its doors for good.

When The Straits Times visited the Central Business District (CBD) on Monday, office buildings and trains along the North-South and Downtown lines were noticeably less crowded.

Another wave of Covid-19 community infections has brought Singapore back to working from home as the default and resulted in a cut in social group sizes to two people until Oct 24.

Social gatherings at the workplace and cross-deployment of workers to multiple worksites are also disallowed. Those who are able to work from home but need to return to the workplace for ad hoc reasons could do so only after testing negative via the antigen rapid test.

Tech media specialist Stanley Chong, 32, who was at Raffles Place Green, said: "Before the new heightened Covid-19 measures, you could see more people returning to work - around 50 per cent of what original crowds used to be. But today is considerably emptier because of the new measures."

Good Old Taste has tried to cope by offering delivery services but most of its orders come from office workers nearby.

Ms Koh said: "Most food businesses have accepted the sudden need to restrict group sizes and seating arrangements. But we cannot deny that it has an impact on our business."

She added that several neighbouring stalls, including one selling prawn noodles and one selling beehoon, had closed recently.

Another F&B outlet, Strangers  @  Work in The Arcade, is bracing itself for tougher times.

Ms Wen Xuan, 27, a barista at Strangers  @  Work, said that business at her specialty coffee house - which had already dropped to a quarter of pre-pandemic levels - fell even more on Monday.

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Thin crowds were also observed at Woodlands, home to an integrated commercial development with offices and retail outlets.

Madam He Xing, 40, a sales assistant at a soya beancurd stall at Woodlands MRT station, said that before the tightening of measures, customers would begin queueing at her stall from 6am.

On Monday, however, they started appearing only an hour later. "Usually at this time, I would have sold about $200 worth of products but I only collected $100 today," she said in Mandarin.

Parks were also emptied of crowds on Monday.

People exercising at Tampines Central Park on Sept 27, 2021. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Over at Pang Sua Park Connector in Yew Tee, system administrator Vakada Surya Chandra Kala, 42, said the usual groups of parents with children were absent. Also noticeably absent were large groups of people exercising.

Madam Vakada would usually jog with her friend along the park connector but decided to jog alone due to the latest measures.

Retiree Lily Ho, 70, who jogs at the park every day, said that the thinned crowd was a welcomed change for her. "If not, more people would be infected," she said.

People eating breakfast in pairs at Toast Box in VivoCity on Sept 27, 2021. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Morning traffic on some roads also appeared smoother and lighter than usual as the first day of compulsory home-based learning for students in primary and special education schools kicked in.

Operations specialist Rachel Ong, 23, was among the handful of people seen going to their workplaces. "I have to go to work because my work requires me to go down to utilise specific data-bases that are not available at home," said Ms Ong, who works in the CBD.

Personal assistant Shernice Chan, 30, who works at HarbourFront, said: "My office tries to do a split-team arrangement so that we can still return to the office."

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