Shops, eateries around Bukit Merah, Redhill Covid-19 clusters struggle as customers stay away

(From left) Tan Kooi Tiang and Abdul Aziz say business is affected, while Ong Gin Bock limits outings to essential activities.

SINGAPORE - Cake shop owner Tan Kooi Tiang used to serve up to 200 customers a day, but this has dwindled to 30 to 40 over the past three weeks.

She is one of the shop owners affected by the emergence of four Covid-19 clusters in Bukit Merah View and Redhill.

Her Omzyn Cake shop is located in a block next to 115 Bukit Merah View Market and Hawker Centre, which is one of the clusters.

When The Straits Times visited the area on Tuesday (June 22) and Wednesday, some coffee shops, bakeries and convenience stores were still in operation. The market and food centre are closed till Saturday.

Said Ms Tan, 52, in Mandarin: "I am worried about both my health and my business. I'm scared my customers or the people here may have Covid-19, so I don't dare to walk about too much."

She was unsure of being able to earn enough this month to cover her rent.

Six other shops that ST spoke to said their customer footfall had dropped by at least 50 per cent.

Mr Abdul Aziz, 62, a cook at coffee shop stall Seribu Jaya Indian Food, said: "Customers are very afraid to come down… Business has been especially bad here over the past two weeks."

He added that he had been quarantined once and swabbed three times after he was identified as coming in close contact with infected cases in Bukit Merah.

The food centre at Block 115 was popular with both residents as well as visitors.

Most of the 20 residents ST spoke to said they were staying home as a precaution.

Retired fruit seller Ong Gin Bock, 75, who lives at Block 121 Bukit Merah View, site of one of the four clusters, limits his outings to essential activities like buying food. "Sometimes I'd just stay home and eat Maggi noodles, but I can't be eating that every day," he added.

At the neighbouring Redhill Market and Food Centre, where a visit by an infected person between June 8 and June 10 resulted in all shop owners, staff and tenants being tested for Covid-19, business was also hard hit, even though all tested negative.

It is also in the vicinity of the new cluster at 90 Redhill Close declared by the Ministry of Health on Tuesday.

Radin Mas MP Melvin Yong told ST that hawkers and shop owners there said their sales have dropped by up to 70 per cent during this period, and have yet to pick up even with two-person dine-in being allowed from Monday.

"They hope that customers will recognise that all stallholders have recently tested negative for Covid-19, and come back to the market and food centre for their meals and groceries," said Mr Yong. He is working with the market association and the town council to review additional support measures for affected hawkers and stallholders.

For stallholders at 115 Bukit Merah View Market and Hawker Centre, Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Joan Pereira, who oversees the Henderson-Dawson ward, said that the Tanjong Pagar Town Council has agreed to waive the service and conservancy charges for the duration of the market's closure from June 13 to Saturday.

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