SINGAPORE - Some supermarkets saw snaking queues on Saturday (July 24) morning, leaving shoppers frustrated at the weekend time spent waiting for groceries, and worried about being in less-than-ideally distanced crowds.
From Bukit Panjang and Jurong in the West to Tampines in the East, shoppers had to wait at least 20 minutes before being allowed to enter FairPrice outlets and, once inside, found it difficult to navigate through the crowd, before again facing long queues to make payment.
Singapore has entered its first weekend since reverting to tougher Covid-19 restrictions on Thursday, with many wet markets affected by the Jurong Fishery Port cluster that has grown to 740 cases.
Two more wet markets - Admiralty Wet Market and Bukit Timah Market and Food Centre - were flagged by the Ministry of Health on Friday as places where those infected had been, taking the total number of wet markets affected to more than 30 and leading to some shoppers switching to supermarkets instead.
In the queues on Saturday, there was much talk of the wariness of going to wet markets right now.
Some said they were simply unsure if the wet markets nearby were open. It was just too troublesome to find out, they said.
Mr John Lim, who was at the FairPrice outlet at Hillion Mall in Bukit Panjang, told The Straits Times: "I heard some comments. People everywhere are flocking to the supermarkets now due to the wet market situation."
The queue at Hillion Mall stretched out into the carpark and nearly led him to turn back home in despair, but the 79-year-old retiree stayed on and found that it was thankfully fast moving.
"It was the first time I had seen such a long queue. In the end, I had to wait only 15 to 20 minutes before being able to enter the supermarket."
At Junction 8 in Bishan, shoppers complained that there was no safe distancing and the slow payment queues led to them abandoning groceries which they had painstakingly picked out.
One FairPrice outlet in Jurong East saw a queue that reached the end of a long aisle. Mr Gideon Lowe, a 40-year-old who works in the banking industry, said: "I didn't expect it to be this long in the morning. I am usually busy on weekdays so I thought to come out today... but this has been 30 minutes and counting."
In Tampines Mall, the FairPrice supermarket was packed, although Ms Sea Shan Yi, 24, noted that the mall has always been crowded.
Ms Sea, an auditor, added: "The vegetables section looks a bit more bare than usual, but the fish and meat are well stocked."
The increase in crowds has led supermarket chains to change their policies on discounts for the elderly - who are most at risk of Covid-19, and many of whom are unvaccinated. The discount is usually offered only on certain days of the week.
FairPrice said that until the end of August, seniors can pass their Pioneer Generation cards to another person who can do their shopping on their behalf. The 3 per cent discount that the card entitles shoppers to will still be offered only on Mondays and Wednesdays.
Giant has extended its senior citizen discount to be available on all weekdays. It had previously been applicable only on Tuesdays.
Dairy Farm, which operates both Cold Storage and Giant, also said stock levels for fresh seafood remain sufficient. Its e-commerce sales have doubled.
Sustainability and the Environment Minister Grace Fu visited the Prime Supermarket at Century Square on Saturday, and assured the media there that the supply of seafood in Singapore is stable.
Local suppliers are stepping up and have seen orders four to five times the usual, while supermarkets have adjusted quickly and diversified their sources, she said.
"Frozen foods are also doing good sales. There are many types of fish, many types of seafood. I urge Singaporeans to give them a try so that we can all have seafood for everyone."