As Singapore hunkered down to the second day of its circuit-breaker month, many streets and malls remained almost deserted as the majority of people stayed home.
With school closures taking effect yesterday, families had to take to new routines as both parents and children started working and studying at home together.
But people young and old continued to gather in groups yesterday, and some exercise groups met in the parks, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli, whose ministry oversees the enforcement of safe distancing rules, said last night. He described this as very worrying and warned that stern action will be taken.
"A good number still do not observe safe distancing when queueing, especially in the markets. These are where clusters of infections can be born," he said in a Facebook post, as 142 new cases were reported, almost all local.
A new law rushed through Parliament on Tuesday that took effect yesterday prohibits social gatherings of any size, whether in private or public spaces. Going to hawker stalls and supermarkets to get food and necessities, as some did yesterday, is allowed.
As of 8pm yesterday, more than 3,000 written advisories had been served, compared with the 7,000 issued a day earlier. Most were given in hawker centres, markets and public spaces in HDB estates.
"The point is there are still so many gatherings in public places. This is very worrying," said Mr Masagos. He added that from today, "if enforcement officers come across persons gathered in public, they will issue them written warnings immediately, before dispersing them".
Subsequent infringements will incur a fine or prosecution in court.
Three written stern warnings were issued to members of the public who failed to comply with the elevated safe distancing measures, the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources said.
One of them was a man who sat on a marked seat at Block 89 Redhill Close to have his meal. When asked to leave, he moved to another table to continue eating.
Yesterday, seniors shared that boredom and loneliness were making it a struggle to stay at home.
Madam Chu Wai Ngoh, 75, used to spend one to two hours a day mingling with her peers at Tanglin Halt Food Centre after shopping at a nearby supermarket. Now, she heads straight home after her shopping, lamenting the fact that her gatherings are "no more".
Fifteen markets, including Tiong Bahru Market and Geylang Serai Market, have set up controlled entry and exit points for crowd management, and some saw long but orderly queues. These measures will be rolled out to 25 other markets managed by the National Environment Agency (NEA) or NEA-appointed operators by tomorrow. This will cover about half of all markets islandwide.
In a joint statement yesterday, Enterprise Singapore (ESG) and the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) said they conducted enforcement checks on nearly 10,700 businesses across Singapore on Tuesday.
Ten businesses found to have remained open despite providing non-essential services were instructed to cease operations. They included TCM retail establishments, wellness and beauty product shops, money changers, mobile phone shops, consumer electronics retailers, kitchenware shops and stationery outlets. If these businesses continue to flout the rules, ESG and STB will impose fines and suspend their operations.
Under the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act, first-time offenders face a fine of up to $10,000, imprisonment of up to six months, or both. Second-time offenders can be fined up to $20,000, jailed up to 12 months, or both.
The stricter safe distancing measures have also made homes a little more crowded.
Nanyang Technological University psychology student Wayne Koh, 27, said it can be distracting studying at home. He lives in an executive HDB flat with his parents, sister and brother, all of whom are working from home. "Sometimes, they will take work calls or have video-conference meetings, and it can get quite noisy. I feel I am more productive in school when distractions like Netflix and taking a nap are not so easily available," he said.
For those with younger children, dealing with home-based learning on top of work has also been challenging. Senior manager Jonathan Heng, 42, said that in addition to school assignments, his son Caleb, eight, has to complete daily online modules, while his other son Zachary, four, has two half-hour online live classes a day. "While they are online, either my wife or I have to be with them. They are constantly asking questions. Our work takes a back seat."
While the changes might take some getting used to, he remains positive. "Of course it will continue to be challenging juggling the kids and work. But these are extraordinary times, and this is the new normal now. So, we just have to take it in our stride," he said.