Thinner crowds at parks, markets as people stick to groups of 2 on first day of tighter Covid-19 rules

People cycling at East Coast Park on May 16, 2021.
People cycling at East Coast Park on May 16, 2021.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
A group attending a yoga session under the eye of NParks officers at the Botanic Gardens on May 16, 2021.
A group attending a yoga session under the eye of NParks officers at the Botanic Gardens on May 16, 2021.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
Taped up tables and chairs at Clementi Market and Food Centre on May 16, 2021.
Taped up tables and chairs at Clementi Market and Food Centre on May 16, 2021.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID
People queueing to order food for takeaway at Clementi Market and Food Centre on May 16, 2021.
People queueing to order food for takeaway at Clementi Market and Food Centre on May 16, 2021.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID
The deserted beach at East Coast Park on May 16, 2021.
The deserted beach at East Coast Park on May 16, 2021.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
A couple walking along Orchard Road on May 16, 2021.
A couple walking along Orchard Road on May 16, 2021.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

SINGAPORE - Fewer people were out and about at parks, hawker centres and markets on Sunday morning (May 16), the first day of the new tightened Covid-19 restrictions.

Until June 13, people are allowed out only in groups of two, and dining in is prohibited.

When The Straits Times visited popular parks and nature reserves like East Coast Park, Singapore Botanic Gardens and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, regular park-goers said that the Sunday morning crowd had thinned out and people were generally abiding by the rules.

At Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, safe distancing ambassadors and National Parks Board (NParks) staff were spotted monitoring the crowd. Most hikers were seen keeping to the two-to-a-group rule and wearing masks as they hiked.

The rock at the summit, a popular spot for pictures, was covered up with a "Work In Progress" sign.

Hikers told ST that there were noticeably fewer people around on Sunday.

Housewife Ms Nadifah Wong, 56, who went hiking on Saturday and Sunday morning, said: "The crowd in the morning yesterday was so big, it seemed like a carnival. Everyone was trying to hike in big groups of friends or family before the new restrictions.

"But today, it is so much less packed. It doesn't seem like the usual weekend crowd."


The rock at the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve summit, a popular spot for pictures, was covered up with a "Work In Progress" sign, on May 16, 2021. ST PHOTO: SHERLYN SIM


People hiking at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve on May 16, 2021. ST PHOTO: SHERLYN SIM

Those at East Coast Park made a similar observation.

Ms Sophia Fu, 35, told ST that the park was usually busy on the weekend, but not so on Sunday.

Ms Fu, who brought her own chair, was sitting alone next to a blocked off shelter enjoying the sea breeze.


Ms Sophia Fu enjoying the sea breeze on her own at East Coast Park on May 16, 2021. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

"Every weekend, I come here with my husband, so the new rules don't really affect us. He likes to exercise near the beach and I like the fresh air... If everyone just follows the rules then this will be over soon," said the clerk who is pregnant with her first child.

A cyclist, Mr Eric Lim, 36, who had just finished a morning ride, was also sitting on his own, with his bicycle parked next to him.

He told ST that he would usually be having breakfast with a group of four other cyclists.

"It's a bummer we can't chat and have breakfast together, but at least we can still go out," said the banker, who added that he hoped outdoor activities would still be allowed, as he always looks forward to cycling and hiking after a long work week.

Regular park-goers at Singapore Botanic Gardens said that the crowd size there was comparable to that of a weekday morning.

Ms Anis Abdul was having a picnic with a friend on a field in front of the pond. The pair come every weekend to catch up.

"There's usually a lot of families here with kids. This field is usually full of people like expats and domestic helpers having picnics in groups, but it seems no one is around," said the 26-year-old who works in public relations.

A group of about 15 foreign domestic workers were spotted doing yoga while keeping at least 3m apart.

Social enterprise HelpHer Do Better had a permit for the free yoga class and the session was being observed from a distance by NParks officers. Attendees registered, scanned a QR code, and had their temperature taken.


Attendees keeping at least 3m apart during a yoga session at Singapore Botanic Gardens on May 16, 2021. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG


The free yoga class was being observed from a distance by NParks officers. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

At Tekka Market and Food Centre, tables and chairs were covered in cling wrap, and about a quarter of the stalls were closed.

At least four safe distancing ambassadors were patrolling the area.

As of Sunday, eateries and hawker centres will offer only takeaway and delivery. The Ministry of Health (MOH) said this is to reduce the risk of transmission, due to the higher risk posed by customers in close proximity and dining for prolonged periods with their masks off.

Several stallholders at Tekka told ST that they were expecting a fall in revenue this month.

Temasek Indian Rojak stall operator Jarina Bagam, 55, who has been working at the stall for 17 years, estimated that footfall was off by about 70 per cent.

"Business this morning is worse than during the circuit breaker, as people are more aware of the virus now and scared of contracting it," she said, adding that she is worried for her business in the month to come.

Stall operators at Marine Parade Central Market and Food Centre also expressed concern about their businesses in light of the new restrictions.

Many stalls were closed and red tape was placed on the tables and seats in the hawker centre.

Ms Elayne Ang, who sells carrot cake and Hokkien mee at the market, said business had dropped by more than half as at 10am on Sunday, disclosing that she usually would have sold about 100 plates by then.

But a 60-year-old yong tau foo stall owner, who wished to be known only as Mr Pang K.C., said that he was able to sell his products quicker than usual on Sunday morning, possibly because more people are cooking at home.

“I expect my sales to increase this month but not by much, at most 10 per cent,” he said.