New rules barring the unvaccinated from dining in take effect

Enforcement efforts at hawker centres and coffee shops will be pragmatic: Grace Fu

Unvaccinated people will no longer be able to eat at hawker centres and coffee shops from today, as Singapore rolls out stricter curbs on those who are not inoculated against Covid-19.

Similar restrictions will take effect in malls and large standalone stores - such as Ikea - in a week's time, although the authorities have said exceptions will be made for unvaccinated people who need medical or childcare services.

But they must show proof that they require such services, said the Ministry of Trade and Industry and Enterprise Singapore in a joint statement yesterday.

Unvaccinated people who work in these places are already required to undergo twice-weekly testing, and will thus continue to have access to their workplaces "pending a further review of this policy", they added. This includes people who have to visit such buildings for work, such as food delivery personnel or third-party contracted staff.

Unvaccinated people who have recovered from Covid-19 will similarly be granted access to such places by providing proof of their medical status, as will those who have a negative pre-event test result, for the duration of the event.

Children aged 12 and under, who cannot be vaccinated, are also exempt from these rules.

Malls will be required to check patrons' vaccination status from today, but can let in people who do not meet the requirements during the one-week grace period. They will have to remind them of the new rules.

In a separate video released yesterday, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu said her ministry will take a pragmatic approach in implementing vaccination-differentiated rules at hawker centres and coffee shops.

While hawker centres already have access controls, there is no need for coffee shops to implement a single access point or mandatory access points, or fence up their premises, she said, adding that having a single access point in coffee shops with manpower to manage it will be operationally challenging.

Instead, operators will be told to check the vaccination status of their customers at fixed points, such as individual stalls, and remind those who are unvaccinated they are not allowed to dine in, she said.

Under the new measures, unvaccinated or partially vaccinated persons are allowed only to buy takeaway food from these places.

The authorities will be conducting spot checks at both hawker centres and coffee shops to ensure the rules are being enforced.

Agencies may focus their checks during peak hours and at hot spots with larger congregations of unvaccinated seniors, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Singapore Food Agency (SFA).

Ms Fu said the enforcement efforts will be selective and pragmatic, and will not inconvenience the majority of vaccinated diners.

"Our enforcement teams will go around and at certain times ask certain selected diners for their vaccination status," she added.

"And if they are not vaccinated, we will advise them and take down their names. If they continue to dine or repeatedly come back to dine in again, we will then have no choice but to fine them."

NEA and SFA will also work with town councils and coffee shop operators respectively to deploy personnel to advise patrons on these rules.

To ensure safe distancing between diners as well as stallholders, more seats and tables at particularly congested hawker centres will be cordoned off, if necessary.

"What we are trying to do is really to discourage unvaccinated seniors from mingling in the community spaces. This is really to protect them from serious illnesses," Ms Fu stressed.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 13, 2021, with the headline 'New rules barring the unvaccinated from dining in take effect'. Subscribe