SINGAPORE - There were no big crowds at hawker centres and coffee shops on Monday morning (June 21) when dining in resumed for groups of two.
But those The Straits Times spoke to said they were glad that the ban on dining in imposed since May 16 to stem a rise in the number of Covid-19 community cases has been lifted.
Some stalls at Amoy Street Food Centre saw queues of around 10 to 15 people each at noon, as tables filled up quickly with diners sticking to the rule of two. Cleaners were also out in full force, clearing tables soon after people finished their meals to make the space available for the next pair.
Over at Ion Orchard, popular eateries such as TWG Tea and The Marmalade Pantry were about half full despite the reduced capacity. The mall was shut for four days for cleaning and disinfecting works from June 12 to June 16 after a number of Covid-19 cases were linked to it.
Visitors to the mall on Monday said they were glad the restaurants in town were open again.
Facilities team manager Nazurudeen Salim, who was looking to have dessert with his wife at the Marmalade Pantry, said they missed eating out.
The 31-year-old added that the restrictions had made it difficult for them to catch up with friends and clients over a cup of coffee.
Executive officer Caleb Huang, 34, said it felt good to be back in the shopping belt. He was having lunch with a friend at the Food Republic in Wisma Atria.
“During phase 2 (heightened alert), I had fewer food choices as I didn’t see the point in going out to town and was limited to takeaways in my neighbourhood,” he said.
Business development manager Lydia Ang, 41, who was having lunch at Food Opera in Ion said that she would usually go to Raffles Place or Orchard for lunch.
“It’s important to take a breather from work, for meals or even coffee breaks, even if it’s just for a while. That’s why I’m relieved that dining in is now possible,” she said.
Earlier on Monday morning, stallholders in Clementi and Yew Tee said that while many patrons continue to opt for takeaways, they expect to see more people dining in over the coming days.
Mr Mohamed Jameel, 46, manager of a stall selling Indian and Muslim food, said that the number of customers dropped by around 50 per cent to 60 per cent during the period of heightened alert.
"With the new measures, I hope to see more customers at my stall and I'm relieved that at least groups of two people are allowed to dine in", he said.
When ST visited the S-11 Choa Chu Kang 787 Food Court and a Foodfare coffee shop at around 8am, tables still remained largely empty, though snaking queues had formed at some stalls.
Many people were seen taking away food on their way to work.
Retired engineer Hussein Wahid, 67, who was having coffee and toast alone, said it was good to return to his familiar routine of having breakfast out on weekday mornings after exercising.
Other diners also told ST that they were glad to finally be able to dine in - as it meant returning to some semblance of normality.
A doctor who wanted to be known only as Mr Tan said that he had been eating in his car throughout the period of heightened alert, as all staff working in his clinic have been told to do so, in order to keep the premises clean and to avoid attracting pests.
While the restrictions have now been lifted, he said that he and his family will continue to eat at home more often than dining in, as half of them are still working from home.
"I think it's safe to dine out, unless more clusters form or the spread is worse. I'm worried about clusters like the one at the Bukit Merah View market... so I'm still keeping a lookout for where these clusters are and to try and avoid places with high human traffic," he said.
The cluster at Bukit Merah View Market and Food Centre had grown to 73 cases as at Sunday.
Similarly, Mr Benedict Khoo, 21, who was having breakfast with his sister, Ms Kimberly Khoo, 20, both students, said that the siblings are not really worried about the current Covid-19 situation.
"However, the rest of our family members are more scared about eating out, especially our grandmother. They tell us not to go too far and to eat nearby at places that are within walking distance.
"We are always careful, ensuring that we wear our masks and observe social distancing measures," he said.
Diners at the Clementi 448 Market and Food Centre and the Clementi Kopitiam also told ST that they were relieved to return to the convenience of dining in, and said that the current measures were reasonable in helping to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Technician Pang Li Ping, 40, said that she used to eat at Clementi Kopitiam with her colleague daily before work. However, with the dine-in restrictions, she and her colleague had to take away their food and eat in the company's allocated rooms.
But the food was less tasty, she lamented.
Manager May Fong, 52, who usually eats at the food centre with her husband two or three times a week, said: "We found ourselves visiting the supermarket more often and cooking more. This is not a concern for me, though I did miss the lively atmosphere of (eating at) a hawker centre.
"However, I feel that having the two-people rule is a wise one. We need to strike a balance - to diminish and curb the spread of Covid-19 and also to allow businesses to improve in hawker centres."