Coronavirus: Physical distancing measures at public sports facilities face hurdles

Lane segregation on Toa Payoh Stadium's athletics track means fewer people can use it at any time.
Lane segregation on Toa Payoh Stadium's athletics track means fewer people can use it at any time. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
Shuttlers were not allowed to play on adjacent courts at the ActiveSG sports hall in Toa Payoh on March 21, 2020.
Shuttlers were not allowed to play on adjacent courts at the ActiveSG sports hall in Toa Payoh on March 21, 2020.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SportSingapore's (SportSG) implementation of precautionary measures at ActiveSG venues due to the coronavirus pandemic has met with hiccups in the first week since the national sports agency introduced them last Sunday (March 15).

Lane segregation at tracks and swimming pools were enforced but led to overcrowding in some lanes.

Track and field coach Leon Ho encountered this when he conducted his coaching sessions at Bedok Stadium from 6pm to 8pm during the week, with runners trying to squeeze into the available lanes.

The 26-year-old said: "Before the lane segregation, it wasn't so messy, but once the lanes were cordoned off, the crowds congregated at the available lanes and we had a hard time finding what lanes we could use. There was lane segregation because of social distancing (measures), but now it's squeezing everyone together."

Chan Whye Mun, who runs at MOE (Evans Road) twice a week, noted that there were also runners who did not stick to the available lanes on Tuesday (March 17) night.

"I don't see people doing intervals agreeing to take alternate lanes or observing this because they are fast - they have to overtake people who are running slowly," said the senior vice-president at a manufacturing company.

"There wasn't anybody enforcing (measures). I saw a few signs but the signs are positioned away from where I start and end, and I'm running too fast to read it so I don't know what it says."

Some runners at Toa Payoh Stadium also felt that the lane segregation could have been done more effectively. While there was a notice at the stadium entrance indicating that two lanes had been blocked off, several did not realise that it was part of precautionary measures against the Covid-19 outbreak.


The running track at Toa Payoh Stadium on March 21, 2020. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

At the ActiveSG swimming complexes, lane ropes were introduced to allow swimmers to swim only the length of the pool.

At the Toa Payoh and Bishan swimming complexes, certain lanes were allocated for classes and lap swimming, with the remaining open lanes available to the rest of the swimmers. Two people that The Straits Times spoke to said that the segregation was counter-productive as it led to more people gathering in those lanes.


The Toa Payoh swimming complex on March 21, 2020. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

There were also long queues to get into the swimming facility at Our Tampines Hub (OTH) from 8am to 10am on Saturday, as one of the measures imposed by SportSG is a limit of 250 people in a swimming complex at any one time.

Some waited up to 40 minutes in the morning, but when this reporter arrived at OTH at 5.45pm on Saturday, there were no queues.

 
 

Before the pandemic, the swimming complex usually accommodated 500 people during peak hours.

Esther Kuek, who brought her two children for swimming lessons at about 5pm on Saturday, queued for 10 minutes before entering the venue. But the bank officer did not mind the wait, saying: "During this period of time, I believe all these steps that the government has implemented are for everyone's good. Having to wait is just an extra step that we have to take."

For some recreational shuttlers, their bookings were cancelled because only alternate courts were in use.

However, they were also understanding of the situation.

Civil servant Yeo Chok Lih, who organises twice- to thrice-weekly badminton sessions for a group of 16 colleagues and friends, had one of his two court bookings at Toa Payoh Sports Hall cancelled on Monday (March 16).

 
 

The 44-year-old said: "It was a bit rushed for us to make the last-minute arrangement because we had to explain to the group (why we had to restrict the number of people). But it's understandable... when the virus is spreading so quickly, we just have to make do with what we have."

ST reached out to SportSG for comment but it could not respond by press time.