SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) issued 43 written advisories on Sunday (Apr 5) to hawker centre customers who broke safe-distancing rules aimed at preventing COVID-19 spread.

During enforcement rounds at breakfast, lunch and dinner times, NEA officers found these patrons sitting on seats which have been marked out or standing in a queue less than 1m away from another patron, said the agency on Sunday.

“While all were compliant following the advisories, NEA urges all patrons to practice safe distancing by following the markings at the cooked food sections of hawker centres, which have been in place since Apr 1, 2020,” it said in a media release.

Safe-distancing measures at public places including hawker centres went into effect on Wednesday. These include alternate seats at cooked food sections of all hawker centres and floor queue markings at 1,368 popular cooked food stalls.

NEA has also said that 83 markets would implement queue markings to help customers keep a safe distance from each other. “A vast majority” of markets had rolled out the floor markings as of Sunday, said NEA.

READ: How F&B outlets, markets and food suppliers will operate amid COVID-19 ‘circuit breaker’ measures

The adherence rate has improved to almost 50 per cent on Sunday from about 20 per cent early last week, said NEA, but added that “more patrons need to come on board” and maintain the 1m separation while queuing at markets.

“In particular, patrons buying vegetables and fish should observe safe distancing when making purchases, and not crowd in front of the stalls.”

AVOID VISITING MARKETS ON WEEKENDS

The agency also reiterated a call for the elderly and children to avoid visiting markets on weekends as they fall under the vulnerable groups category.

This weekend, the elderly made up almost 30 per cent of all visitors to markets, said NEA. It also observed an average increase of 25 per cent in the crowd levels at 80 per cent of the 83 markets islandwide.

NEA officers issue a written advisory to a hawker centre patron. (Photo: NEA)

It added that the public “may be in a better position” visit the markets early on weekdays since more people are working from home.

“Such small adjustments will also make for a more pleasant visit to the markets and a safer environment for all,” said NEA, adding that fruit stalls and some vegetables stalls at most markets are open even on Mondays.

“If patrons must visit markets during the weekends, they should consider going early since stalls open as early as 5am, and avoid the usual peak period between 7.30am and 10am.”

READ: Singapore sees record daily spike of 120 COVID-19 cases, ‘significant number’ linked to worker dormitories

CROWD CONTROL MEASURES

NEA began a trial this weekend at Serangoon Garden Market during the morning peak hour to study how crowd management can be conducted in a market setting.

It had told patrons to expect queues and delays during the trial as it monitored and controlled the entry and exit points of the market to avoid overcrowding.

“The trial was conducted smoothly” said NEA, adding that the crowd control measures will be extended to other markets with “feasible” physical layouts, as well as popular markets.

From Tuesday, these measures will be implemented at Tiong Bahru Market and Bukit Timah Market.

They will also be progressively introduced at markets in Geylang Serai, North Bridge Road, Tanglin Halt, Beo Crescent, Taman Jurong and Kallang Estate.

As announced on Friday, patrons will not be allowed to dine in at hawker centres starting from Tuesday as part of national “circuit breaker” measures announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

“No one should gather or loiter at the dining areas of our hawker centres,” said NEA.

Patrons and delivery riders can continue to make take-away purchases at hawker centres, while maintaining 1m separation from each other and following floor markings where available.

“Non-compliant patrons and visitors may face enforcement action. SG Clean Ambassadors and volunteers will be deployed to assist patrons and visitors,” added NEA.

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