Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre reopens with enhanced measures after Covid-19 deep-cleaning

People are seen at a checkpoint for entering Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre on Sept 30, 2021. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
Vehicles enter Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre, on Sept 30, 2021. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
Vehicles are checked as they enter Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre, on Sept 30, 2021. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
Visitors queue at a checkpoint before entering Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre on foot, on Sept 30, 2021. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre reopened on Thursday (Sept 30) afternoon with enhanced safety measures after a three-day closure for deep cleaning and disinfection following the detection of Covid-19 cases.

In a statement, the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) said that all tenants and workers entering the centre will be required to wear coloured wristbands according to the sector they are working in.

The sectors are determined by the type of items sold: fruit, vegetables and dried goods. The cold room is another sector. Tenants and workers are not allowed to cross sectors unnecessarily.

Additionally, the number of workers per tenant who can access the centre's coldroom will also be controlled. Those workers will have to be tested twice a week and have negative tests before they are allowed entry.

Moreover, a maximum of 250 trade visitors will be allowed to visit Block 13A, a trading area in the vegetable sector, during night trading hours.

The frequency of Covid-19 testing for all workers will also be increased from a 14-day regime to a seven-day regime, SFA added.

Several workers and tenants were denied entry as they did not have the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test results required. They would have received a text message from the Health Promotion Board (HPB) with details of where to get their swab tests done, and were supposed to act on it.

When The Straits Times visited the centre at 1pm, there were around 35 workers and tenants queuing outside the centre, with three to four lorries entering every five to 10 minutes. Queues thinned later in the afternoon following the rain, but a constant stream of trucks was still seen entering the centre.

As at Wednesday, 127 Covid-19 cases were detected among people who worked at or visited the wholesale centre. About 30 per cent and 50 per cent of Singapore's fruit and vegetable imports are handled at the centre.

Among the tenants returning on Thursday was Mr Mickey Loh, 52, the owner of fruit wholesaler LES Fruits.

Mr Loh said that he and his employees took their swab tests on Tuesday and received negative results.

"We are expecting tropical fruit imported from Malaysia to arrive today," said Mr Loh in Mandarin. They wanted to prepare for the start of sales on Friday from 3am.

When he and his staff were informed on Sunday that the wholesale centre would be closed the next day, they had time to prepare and inform their suppliers from Malaysia to stop shipments. Fruit imported from other parts of the world, such as from Australia, America, China and South Africa, had yet to arrive in Singapore, he added.

During the closure, he and his staff stayed at home. "We took it as a rest day," he said.

However Mr Loh wondered why they were assigned to take the swab test in a location far away from the west, where he and his staff lived.

"We took the swab test in Serangoon despite living in the west. If some of us have Covid-19, wouldn't we infect people in that area?"

Among those denied entry was Mr Goh Chay Sum, 56. He said he has yet to receive his test result.

A driver's credentials being checked as he enters Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre on Sept 30, 2021. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Mr Goh, who works as a vegetable packer, received a message from HPB on Tuesday for a test appointment on Wednesday at 10am.

He said in Mandarin: "Some of them went for the test in the afternoon and have already received their results."

"I just have to wait for the results. If it is not out tomorrow, then I will just have to go for the test one more time," he added.

Some tenants avoided going back altogether.

"We won't be returning to the centre as we expect a rampage when it reopens and would like to avoid the chaos," said Mr Ivan Chua, 31, general manager of JM Fresh, a vegetable and fruit importer.

The supplier, which services restaurants and hotels, has seen business drop by about 40 per cent because of the closure.

"We had to cancel quite a number of restaurants' and vendors' orders in order to better fulfil the rest," said Mr Chua, who added that its main import sources are China and Malaysia.

Vehicles queueing to enter Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre on Sept 30, 2021. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

The SFA said on Sunday that the temporary closure of Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre would cause "some" disruption to Singapore's fruit and vegetable supply, but that this would be only "for a very short period".

Before the closure, major supermarket chains had also said there were sufficient stocks of fruits and vegetables in store.

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