Leaner crowds at markets and parks after stricter safe distancing measures kick in

Shoppers at Geylang Serai market around noon on April 25, 2020. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - Markets and parks had thinner crowds on Saturday (April 25) - the first weekend day after tougher circuit breaker measures were imposed - with most people shopping or exercising on their own or in pairs.

There were small queues at the two main entrances to Geylang Serai market - a stark difference from the long lines seen in previous weeks.

Large speakers at the entrance broadcast reminders of the new entry requirements in English and Malay while SG Clean ambassadors and Certis staff checked IC numbers of customers going into the centre, one of four markets where entry is determined by IC number.

As Saturday's date (April 25) was an odd number, only those whose NRIC or foreign identification number ends with an odd digit were allowed in.

About 7 per cent were turned away at the market as the last digit of their NRIC or foreign identification number was an even number, said Minister for Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli in a Facebook post on Saturday, adding that the 505 Jurong West market also had to reject around 7 per cent of their patrons.

The situation was better at Chong Pang market and Marsiling market, with around 3 per cent turned away.

Another encouraging sign was that fewer than 20 people were caught for not wearing masks, said Mr Masagos, adding that enforcement officers nabbed 60 people breaching safe distancing measures.

"This means that more people are complying with the circuit breaker measures," said Mr Masagos.

Library assistant Sapia Mohamed Alias was one of those turned away at Geylang Serai.

She had mistakenly believed IC numbers were supposed to correspond to the days of the week and rushed down thinking it was "day six", being Saturday.

"It's only when I arrived here and heard the announcement that I realised we were supposed to follow the dates," said Madam Sapia, 57, who left her son to take over the grocery shopping.

Shoppers having their identity card numbers checked before entering Geylang Serai market on April 25, 2020. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
Shoppers communicating across the barricade at Geylang Serai market on April 25, 2020. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Pedestrian traffic in the market was largely smooth sailing when The Straits Times visited at about 10am, with most market-goers maintaining some distance.

Accountant Cheryl Chua, 47, said Saturday's crowd was one of the leanest she had seen: "In the past I couldn't even walk through sometimes, but now, it's so empty that all the stallholders are looking at every customer that comes in."

Crowds were also lean when The Straits Times visited East Coast Park at about 11am. While there were families out and about, most park-goers were jogging or cycling on their own or in pairs.

There were also more barricades set up, including along the perimeters of East Coast Lagoon Food Village to prevent joggers and cyclists from directly entering the hawker centre from running and cycling paths.

Cyclists at East Coast Park on April 25, 2020. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
A barricade set up along the perimeters of East Coast Lagoon Food Village. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Regular park-goers said the crowd has gradually lessened as more and more barricades were put in place.

Oil and gas trader Elmer Poh, who lives nearby, said Saturday was the "most quiet" he has seen the park.

Most carparks have also been closed although one closest to East Coast Lagoon Food Village remained open.

Mr Danny Ho, 57, a credit risk manager, was among the few who still drove to the park.

Mr Ho and his wife parked near the hawker centre so they could enjoy a short walk and buy food: "We've been cooped up in the house for so long, we just want to have a different environment."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.