Lunchtime crowds still thronged two popular malls in Novena yesterday despite the Covid-19 cluster linked to the nearby Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), but businesses say footfall has been impacted.
Diners and shoppers at Velocity and Square 2 whom The Straits Times spoke to said they were not overly concerned about the TTSH cluster, as they had faith that the authorities were handling the situation.
The malls are linked by underground walkways to the hospital, where a nurse working in a general ward had tested positive for Covid-19 last Tuesday. TTSH has locked down four wards and barred all visitors from its wards.
Eight new cases yesterday brought the cluster to 35 – the largest active cluster now.
Visiting Velocity and Square 2 at 1pm yesterday, ST found more than 60 people in each of the foodcourts.
Real estate agent Clement Khoo, 45, who was dining at the foodcourt in Velocity with his 10-year-old son, said he was initially concerned that he would have to reschedule his son’s appointment at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital.
“But since TTSH has been locked down and Mount Elizabeth said they can still operate normally, I didn’t see a need to reschedule,” he said. “I did try to avoid the building as we made our way here today,” he added.
Ms Rachel Tang, 30, who was shopping at Velocity with her husband before a medical appointment at Mount Alvernia Hospital in Thomson Road, said: “While I am a little worried about the cluster, the situation seems fairly under control.
“We just have to take the necessary precautions and trust that things will get better,” added the healthcare worker, who is pregnant.
Staff at 12 retail stores and food outlets in both malls told ST that weekday footfall has fallen by 10 per cent to 50 per cent since news of the TTSH cluster broke and people returned to working from home.
Public agencies such as the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore are among the organisations with offices in the Novena area that have asked their staff to work from home where possible.
At Itacho Sushi at Square 2, assistant manager Ailan Chen said the restaurant normally has 300 to 400 customers on weekdays, but that number has dropped by 50 per cent.
Cake shop Sinpopo and ramen stall Kajiken both said they saw a 50 per cent decrease in footfall, while a fast-food outlet said it has seen a 20 per cent to 30 per cent drop in customers since the TTSH cluster.
However, retailers and food outlets said footfall yesterday could have been affected as some workers had been given a day off in lieu for Labour Day, which fell on Saturday.
Meanwhile, other hospitals in the area have stepped up safety measures. When ST visited Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, where a stream of people were seen entering the building, a sign at the entrance requested that visitors declare if they had been hospitalised or visited inpatient wards in TTSH from April 18.
It was quiet at the nearby Ren Ci Community Hospital, which has barred visitors from its wards. Only a few people were seen in its lobby.