Coronavirus pandemic

Coronavirus: Thinner crowds at popular markets where entry is determined by NRIC

An SG Clean ambassador (right) ensuring shoppers at the wet market at Marsiling Lane adhere to safe distancing rules at around 10.20am yesterday. Despite it being an even date, meaning only shoppers whose NRIC number has an even last digit can enter,
An SG Clean ambassador (right) ensuring shoppers at the wet market at Marsiling Lane adhere to safe distancing rules at around 10.20am yesterday. Despite it being an even date, meaning only shoppers whose NRIC number has an even last digit can enter, The Straits Times understands that no one was turned away on the first day of the stricter guidelines.ST PHOTO: MARCELLIN LOPEZ

Officials were on hand to explain new rules to reduce customer traffic

A new move to restrict entry to popular wet markets based on the last digit of shoppers' NRIC number resulted in thinner crowds yesterday morning.

The new measures at the markets at Chong Pang in Yishun, Geylang Serai, Jurong West Street 52 and Marsiling Lane are part of tighter guidelines to stem the spread of Covid-19.

Other initiatives include encouraging people to go out alone when exercising or running errands.

The National Environment Agency on Tuesday announced that entry into the four wet markets will be based on the last digit of a shopper's NRIC number or foreign identification number.

Those with even numbers will be allowed entry only on even dates of the month. Those with odd number last digits can shop on odd dates.

The Straits Times understands, though, that no one was turned away yesterday as it was the first day of the new guidelines.

When ST visited the markets yesterday, designated entry and exit points were open from as early as 6am. The market in Jurong West also had a temperature screening point near the entrance, staff providing hand sanitiser and signs informing shoppers they will be denied entry if they were not wearing masks.

At least 10 to 20 staff, including Cisco officers and town council employees, were on site at each wet market to inform shoppers of the new rules and to manage the number of shoppers inside the markets.

Safe distancing enforcement officers and SG Clean ambassadors were also present in the area, reminding shoppers to stand a metre apart while queueing to enter the markets.

Apart from NRIC, shoppers were also allowed to present their TransitLink concession card, work permit, PAssion card with NRIC number or driver's licence.

Madam Poh, a 64-year-old retiree who declined to give her full name, arrived at the Jurong West market at around 8am. She said: "The new measures are necessary, if not it will be very crowded. Usually, I can't even walk through the market without bumping into others."

Some others were confused about the new measure. Mr Chan Heng Luan, 70, a retiree who used to work in an electronics factory, turned up at Chong Pang Market even though the last digit of his NRIC is an odd number.

"I thought that since it was a Wednesday, an odd day of the week, I would be allowed in. But the staff at the market told me they go by the date, not the day," he said.

Fishmonger Ang Lai Kiap, 55, said footfall in Chong Pang Market has dropped by at least 40 to 50 per cent compared with Tuesday, before the new restriction kicked in.

Most shoppers that ST spoke to said they did not mind the new measure.

Mr Muhammad Hassan, 55, a technical support officer, said it took him about 10 minutes to enter Chong Pang Market.

"I usually come here once every two days, but with Ramadan coming up and the new rule in place, I will probably come here less often."

Elsewhere outdoors, some still headed out to exercise, despite Sport Singapore urging the public to exercise at home during the extended circuit breaker period.

But like Mr Chung Choon Sing, some followed the new guidelines. The 66-year-old retiree went for his daily brisk walk, but without his wife this time.

He said: "I do not think it is logical. As husband and wife, we are a family and inside the house, we are much closer. I mingle more with my wife (at home) as opposed to when I am exercising with her."

At shopping malls including Nex and Great World, temperature screening was in place in accordance with the advisory issued on Tuesday.

Frasers Property Retail said measures are also being implemented to conduct mandatory contact tracing for shoppers at malls with high traffic, namely Causeway Point, Northpoint City, Tiong Bahru Plaza, Waterway Point and YewTee Point.

Mall operators added that there are plans to use a digital check-in application called SafeEntry, developed by GovTech, to log shopper entry and exit, once the app is ready.

Additional reporting by Melissa Heng and Kimberly Kwek

Correction note: The article has been edited to reflect the correct name for Great World. We are sorry for the error.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 23, 2020, with the headline 'Thinner crowds at popular markets where entry is determined by NRIC '. Print Edition | Subscribe