Stores in Novena malls say crowds have thinned since TTSH cluster emerged, shoppers there unfazed

Staff at 12 retail stores and food outlets in both malls told ST that weekday footfall has fallen by 10 to 50 per cent. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
Visitors at Square 2 shopping mall in Novena, on May 3, 2021. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

SINGAPORE - Lunchtime crowds still thronged two popular malls in Novena on Monday (May 3) despite the Covid-19 cluster linked to the nearby Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), but businesses said footfall has been impacted.

Diners and shoppers at Velocity and Square 2 that The Straits Times spoke to said they were not overly concerned about the TTSH cluster as they had faith that the authorities were handling the situation.

The malls are linked by underground walkways to the hospital, where a nurse working in a general ward had tested positive for Covid-19 on April 27. TTSH has locked down four wards and barred all visitors to its wards.

Eight new cases on Monday brought the cluster to 35 - the largest active cluster now.

Visiting Velocity and Square 2 at 1pm on Monday, ST found that the foodcourts had over 60 people each.

Real estate agent Clement Khoo, 45, who was dining at the foodcourt in Velocity with his 10-year-old son, said he was initially concerned that he would have to reschedule his son's appointment at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital.

"But since TTSH has been locked down and Mount Elizabeth said it can still operate normally, I didn't see a need to reschedule," he said.

"I did try to avoid the building as we made our way here today," he added.

Ms Rachel Tang, 30, who was shopping at Velocity with her husband before a medical appointment at Mount Alvernia Hospital in Thomson Road, said: "While I am a little worried about the cluster, the situation seems fairly under control.

"We just have to take the necessary precautions and trust that things will get better," added the healthcare worker, who is pregnant.

Her husband, Mr Dennis Tng, 32, also a healthcare worker, said he had confidence that TTSH was doing all it could to ensure the spread was contained. "They're the best people to handle the situation," he said.

Staff at 12 shops and food outlets in both malls told ST that weekday footfall has fallen by 10 to 50 per cent since news of the TTSH cluster broke and people returned to working from home.

Public agencies such as the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore are among the organisations with offices in the Novena area that have asked their staff to work from home where possible.

At Itacho Sushi at Square 2, assistant manager Ailan Chen said the restaurant normally had 300 to 400 customers on weekdays, but that number has dropped by 50 per cent.

Cake shop Sinpopo and ramen stall Kajiken both saw a 50 per cent decrease in footfall, while a fast food outlet said it received 20 to 30 per cent fewer customers since the TTSH cluster.

People queue up to enter Square 2 shopping mall in Novena, on May 3, 2021. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

However, retailers and food outlets said footfall on Monday could have been affected as some workers are given a day off in lieu of Labour Day, which fell on Saturday.

Meanwhile, other hospitals in the area have stepped up safety measures.

When ST visited Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, where a stream of people was seen entering the building, a sign at the entrance requested that visitors declare if they had been warded at or visited inpatient wards at TTSH from April 18.

People walk pass Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital in Novena, on May 3, 2021. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

It was quiet at Ren Ci Community Hospital, which has barred visitors to its wards. Only a few people were seen in its lobby.

In other parts of the island, hospitals, including National University Hospital and Alexandra Hospital, have also banned entry to persons who had been warded at or visited TTSH inpatient wards from April 18.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.