Would you take Covid-19 test to go clubbing? Sunday Times poll finds out

The pilot to reopen selected establishments with strict measures in place is meant to boost the battered industry.
The pilot to reopen selected establishments with strict measures in place is meant to boost the battered industry.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The road to recovery for Singapore's beleaguered nightlife industry will be a long one, a Sunday Times (ST) poll has shown, with most readers stating that they will not patronise establishments such as karaoke outlets and nightclubs during a planned pilot programme.

The pilot to reopen selected establishments with strict measures in place is meant to boost the battered industry.

It will begin at selected bars and pubs from next month and will widen to include certain karaoke outlets and nightclubs from January onward.

But readers who took part in last week's online poll said they find the safe management measures that must be in place at these establishments to be too "restrictive" or "troublesome", and that they will be deterred by them.

Of the 400 respondents who took part in the poll, 62 per cent indicated they would not visit a karaoke outlet and 73 per cent said they would stay away from nightclubs.

Views on visiting bars and pubs - which will be subject to less stringent rules - were mixed, with about 35 per cent of respondents saying they would patronise the businesses and another 18 per cent responding with a "maybe".

Respondents took issue with the mandatory Covid-19 tests, among other measures. Patrons must produce a negative Covid-19 test, good for the 24 hours before the end of their karaoke or clubbing session.

This was also the least popular measure among respondents.

About 70 per cent said they would not take the Covid-19 tests. About 47 per cent of those polled also said the cost of the test should be shared between the Government, the businesses and consumers, with responses varying in the configuration of such a cost-sharing arrangement.

Respondent Codi Koh, 35, said she would not take the Covid-19 test just to patronise the businesses, as she is afraid of the discomfort it would cause her.

Ms Koh, who works in sales, also said she would not patronise the businesses as she does not trust other patrons to stick to the rules.

"Under the influence of soft lighting, music and alcohol... you'll feel very comfortable, and once you feel very comfortable, you'll tend to forget all the rules," said Ms Koh.

Financial trader W.K. Teo, 35, said he would take the test to frequent nightclubs and bars he used to go to.

He sees the test as the "new normal going forward", much like how people must be tested for Covid-19 to travel overseas. However, he sees the cost of the test as a potential problem, he said.

"I feel that either the Government or the businesses should cover the tests, and definitely not the customer. If you ask the customers to pay for the tests, they will prefer not to go to these premises," said Mr Teo.

Like others, Mr Teo also questioned the need for the mandatory wearing of masks and the ban on alcohol sales after 10.30pm, which he felt were unnecessary measures after one has tested negative for Covid-19.

Healthcare experts however, said the additional measures are a must.

Professor Teo Yik Ying, dean of the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health at the National University of Singapore, said a negative Covid-19 test does not guarantee that a person is definitely infection-free, since the virus has an incubation period during which a person could test negative.

He also said there is always the possibility of a false negative result.

"Until there is a foolproof way of making sure every single person at a karaoke outlet or a nightclub is not infected, measures such as mask wearing and safe distancing will need to remain as a precaution, especially since we know such activities and settings are extremely risky, in terms of the ease of infecting and the likelihood of infecting many at the same time," said Prof Teo.

Nightlife businesses ST spoke to said they understood the need for the measures, but noted that it is still difficult for their businesses to be viable with such strict rules in place.

Ms Francesca Way, founder of A Phat Cat Collective, which owns retro bars and clubs, said her team has decided not to apply for the pilot programme, and will proceed with their plans to pivot into the food and beverage sector instead.

"The financial risks and uncertainty for operators are high. Going for the pilot means we lose out on the up to 50k pivot grant (and potentially better revenue as the rules are less restrictive)," said Ms Way, adding that there is still no concrete idea of what will happen after the pilot ends.

The Singapore Nightlife Business Association's president Joseph Ong emphasised that the safe management measures are not meant to be permanent, and would be revised, scaled down, or lifted when the Covid-19 situation here improves.

He added that he hopes the measures would give customers peace of mind, knowing that they are in safe environments.

Ms Jean Teo, director of popular karaoke chain Teo Heng KTV Studio, said her team made the difficult decision to apply for the pilot, as they felt they must do their part and help keep the industry afloat.

She plans to set up pop-up booths at selected outlets for patrons to do the tests, and said she would wait and listen to the Government's suggestion on who should bear the costs of the tests.

Said Ms Teo: "As long as we are able to, we are going to go all the way to hang on."

Selected nightlife establishments will be allowed to reopen from next month and January, with strict safe management measures in place.


Here are the proposed measures they are to enforce:

• Mandatory mask wearing at all times, except when eating or drinking.

• No selling and consuming alcohol past 10.30pm.

• Deployment of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in all activity areas.

• No deployment of hosts or hostesses.

• Ensuring different groups do not mingle and are at least 1m apart.

• No live music or entertainment.

Bars/pubs

• No loud music beyond 60 decibels.

Karaoke outlets

• Customers must prove they have tested negative for Covid-19. Tests must be taken in the 24-hour period before the end of the planned karaoke session.

• Singing must take place within enclosed rooms, in groups of five or smaller.

• Rooms must be disinfected and aired for 15 minutes between groups of customers.

• Only Singapore residents, including those on work passes, are allowed.

Nightclubs

• Customers must prove they have tested negative for Covid-19. Tests must be taken in the 24-hour period before the end of the planned clubbing session.

• Maximum capacity of 100 people in a club, with crowd split into two zones of 50 people each.

• Groups must stay 2m apart from others on the dancefloor, indicated by floor markings and physical barriers.

• Only Singapore residents, including those on work passes, are allowed.