Patrons wary of markets amid rise in Covid-19 cases; some still visit ahead of Hari Raya Haji

Some patrons said they would visit wet markets only for short durations to do their grocery shopping, or pick up produce at supermarkets instead. ST PHOTO: GOH RUOXUE

SINGAPORE - For Madam Norlizah, a visit to Hougang Village Market is a weekly ritual, during which she takes her time to buy a whole week's worth of groceries for her family.

The 52-year-old, who goes by only one name, made a trip to the market on Monday morning (July 19) to get lemongrass in preparation for Hari Raya Haji on Tuesday.

She had been worried that the market would be closed due to Covid-19 restrictions.

With new coronavirus infections linked to 12 more markets and food centres across Singapore on Sunday, some patrons said that in the coming weeks, they will visit wet markets only for short durations to do their grocery shopping, or pick up produce at supermarkets instead.

Madam Norlizah, who lives with her elderly mother, husband, son and nephew, has received both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine.

"When you have old folks at home, they prefer to get their food from wet markets because it's fresher and cheaper, so I seldom buy from supermarkets," she said.

"I'm worried because this is the only place where we do our grocery shopping. If the markets close, more people will go to the supermarkets and prices may go up."

Meanwhile, other patrons said they will continue to visit wet markets for their daily provisions.

Madam Tan Chon Lan, 63, a retired poultry supplier who has also received both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, said she was taking extra precautions to keep herself safe.

Speaking in Mandarin, she said: "I'm worried but I still have to eat. I just don't visit the infected markets, go out less, shower immediately after I'm home and wash my hands before I eat."

When The Straits Times visited Yew Tee Market at 9am on Monday, there were fewer than 20 people around. The three seafood stalls there were closed.

Housewife Chong Siew Kiat, who purchased pork from a stall at the market, hopes the seafood stalls will reopen soon.

The 69-year-old, who said she eats fish at least three times each week, finds the fish sold at supermarkets more expensive and not as fresh.

She received her first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine on June 22 and will be taking her second dose next Monday.

She said she now tries to limit her time at the wet market. "I don't feel safe, so I will just buy what I need and go home quickly instead of walking around."

Her children have advised her to purchase economy rice at a nearby foodcourt instead of buying ingredients at the market, she said.

But she still prefers the wet market.

"A packet of economy rice costs at least $4 to $5 now and even more if there is fish. I still prefer to cook myself because I can purchase fresher and cheaper ingredients," she said.

Madam Sumi Ateck, 64, a retiree, said her family is not affected much by the lack of fish leading up to Hari Raya Haji and will consider alternative ingredients.

"We will purchase frozen ones or not go for this option during this period. We can always substitute it with vegetables and chicken."

Madam Sumi, who used to work in advertising, said that even though she has taken both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, she will refrain from going out often as she wants to help keep her three grandchildren, aged six to 10, safe.

The wet market at 115 Bukit Merah View Market and Food Centre was quiet on July 19, 2021. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

"I will only get the things I need and quickly go back. As much as possible, I will refrain from going out because I have small children to take care of," she said.

Seniors at other food centres who have received both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine told ST that they will avoid mingling with others during their meals.

Mr Tan Tick Kwee, 78, who was having coffee at Cheng San Market and Cooked Food Centre on Monday morning, said he has been visiting the hawker centre daily for 40 years. "This place is quite popular... there is usually quite a steady stream of customers at the food stalls even on Mondays, but this is the quietest it has been for a long time."

He said he would still visit the hawker centre for his coffee. "I just need to be careful, and practise safe distancing. People generally comply with the rules, too."

• Additional reporting by Goh Ruoxue, Yeo Shu Hui and Wong Yang

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