Dining in at university canteens and dining halls allowed under Covid-19 rules: MOE

Canteens and dining halls at institutes of higher learning can continue to serve students and staff.
Canteens and dining halls at institutes of higher learning can continue to serve students and staff.PHOTO: YONG LI XUAN

SINGAPORE - Dining in at universities is allowed, provided safe management measures are in place at canteens and dining halls on campus.

However, how this policy is implemented differs across the universities here, students told The Straits Times.

Unlike eateries and hawker centres that can offer only takeaway or delivery from now until June 13, canteens and dining halls can continue to serve students and staff.

This is because students and staff are on campuses for a longer period of time, said the Ministry of Education (MOE) on its website.

Nanyang Technological University (NTU) said that students and employees can eat in the university's canteens and foodcourts, but they must respect the rule on a maximum group size of two.

They are also required to sit 1m apart from each other, and intermingling across different tables is not allowed, the university said in an e-mail last Saturday (May 15).

"Individuals should avoid any social interactions while eating, mask up when not consuming food and beverage, and leave the dining venue immediately after finishing their meals and not linger," it added.

Both the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) and the National University of Singapore (NUS) allow students to dine in as well, with some differences to the rules.

Checks by The Straits Times show that SIM's foodcourt, Foodfest, allows dine-in customers, while NUS allows dining in at hostel dining halls but not canteens.

Meanwhile, NTU allows diners in both its canteens and foodcourts but not fast-food outlets and restaurants on campus.

Seating arrangements also differ between universities, with NUS students told that they should sit individually while having their meals in dining halls at hostels.

Students such as Ms Yeo Think-E, 19, are adjusting to the new rules but have welcomed the move to allow dine-ins.

The first-year NTU student said that the dine-in policy was necessary because of the size of her campus, which means that student accommodation is often located a distance from where their classes take place.

"It takes me 20 minutes to walk between my hostel, Pioneer Hall and my lab. A lot of time is lost in between if I can only eat in my room," she said.

For Mr Fung Ting Wei, 23, it is too time consuming for him to travel home to have his meals between classes at SIM.

"If we can't eat on campus, it'll be hard to find a place to eat since we don't know whether we can eat in our lecture halls," he said.

Other students such as Ms Yeoh Joe Ning, 21, will still be taking precautions, even though she is allowed to have her meals in the King Edward VII Hall at NUS where she stays.

"I'll probably still bring food back to my room. The residents of my hall live in different parts of Singapore and you don't know if people have been to places visited by those who have Covid-19," she said.

Dining halls and canteens in institutes of higher learning are not the only places where people can eat in public during this period.

The consumption of food and drinks in public places including parks is not prohibited.

However, this should be in instances when it would be inconvenient to return home or to the workplace to eat, said the Ministry of Health.

"In such instances, members of the public should avoid crowded spaces and minimise social interactions, including maintaining safe distancing at all times," said the ministry.