Public Hygiene Council launches Keep Viruses At Bay initiative to promote good practices

(From left) Co-owner of 848 Ban Mian Teo Siew Tin speaks to Nee Soon South MP Lee Bee Wah, alongside GHK Holdings chairman Goh Hung Kwang and Public Hygiene Council chairman Edward D'Silva at the GHK coffee shop at Yishun Street 81 on Feb 22, 2020.
(From left) Co-owner of 848 Ban Mian Teo Siew Tin speaks to Nee Soon South MP Lee Bee Wah, alongside GHK Holdings chairman Goh Hung Kwang and Public Hygiene Council chairman Edward D'Silva at the GHK coffee shop at Yishun Street 81 on Feb 22, 2020.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - As the coronavirus outbreak continues in Singapore, some food and beverage operators are taking no chances, stepping up their hygiene practices to minimise chances of infection.

The GHK @ Khatib coffee shop in Yishun has increased the number of cleaners per shift - to three per shift, up from two. Staff are also given rubber gloves, and toilets are regularly sanitised and stocked with enough toilet paper, paper towels and liquid soap.

"I was thinking, if we don't keep up these good hygiene habits, what would happen if one day somebody here fell sick? We cannot let our standards slip," said Mr Goh Hung Kwang, chairman of GHK Holdings, which runs 11 coffee shops across the island.

GHK @ Khatib, located at Block 848 Yishun Street 81, has five stalls and spans more than 2,000 sq ft. It has been held up as a model by the Public Hygiene Council, which on Saturday (Feb 22) launched a new initiative to promote good hygiene.

Called Keep Viruses At Bay, it encourages operators of premises to step up their cleaning regimes, and urges members of the public to have better personal hygiene. The initiative will promote its message through videos and social media posts, and complements the SG Clean campaign kicked off by the National Environment Agency last Sunday.

The initiative is targeting coffee shops, but will eventually work with owners of other premises with high human traffic, such as hotels and shopping malls.

"It's a timely occasion to remind everybody to have good personal hygiene, and carry out best practices," said the council's chairman Edward D'Silva, who added that having patrons clear their trays themselves would help too.

Dr Lee Bee Wah, MP for Nee Soon South, met patrons and staff at the GHK coffee shop on Saturday morning.

Asked what her residents' biggest concerns were, Dr Lee said: "They worry about losing their jobs. And SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) worry about their businesses folding."

She stressed the importance of maintaining good hygiene.

"The Government has been doing a good job with contact tracing, and forming an interministerial task force. However, if everyone of us can do our part - to have a culture of shared responsibility in common spaces, this would surely put a stop to the coronavirus as soon as possible.

 
 
 

She urged residents to have a sense of shared responsibility, not just for personal hygiene and home hygiene, but also in common spaces.

GHK coffee shop cleaner Ho Siew Lan, 55, who had rubber gloves on while wiping tables with disinfectant, said in Mandarin: "Because of the virus outbreak, we need to be more attentive to cleanliness. Sometimes I joke and say that if we wipe the tables clean, then there will be more customers, business will be better, and our jobs will be secure."

The coronavirus, or Sars-CoV-2, as it is now known, has infected more than 76,600 people around the world, including 86 in Singapore, with the Covid-19 disease.

Nee Soon resident Ivy Wong, 35, who was having beehoon at the coffee shop on Saturday morning, said she was happy with the coffee shop's standards of hygiene.

While she still carries a bottle of hand sanitiser in her purse for "peace of mind" - she offered some to this reporter - she is less worried about the virus outbreak than she used to be.

"I think everybody now knows that they need to be responsible - if they are sick, they should stay at home," added the sales manager.