Shoppers welcome enhanced Covid-19 safety measures at Singapore markets, hawker centres

People checking in with TraceTogether at Yuhua Village Market and Food Centre in Singapore on Sunday (Aug 1, 2021). - The Straits Times/ANN

SINGAPORE, Aug 1 (The Straits Times/ANN): Shoppers queued and waited patiently on Sunday (Aug 1) morning to enter markets and hawker centres, which now require TraceTogether for entry.

SafeEntry Gateway readers have been set up at entrances for patrons, stallholders and stall assistants to check in with their TraceTogether token or app. Multiple QR codes are also available for scanning.

Safe distancing enforcement officers and ambassadors were present to ensure compliance with the enhanced Covid-19 safety measures and to manage crowds.

In a statement last Friday (July 30), the National Environment Agency (NEA) said the manning of access points will be prioritised during peak periods, such as during mealtimes at hawker centres, to facilitate safe and more efficient entry.

It reminded people to be socially responsible and perform their check-in, regardless of whether or not the entry points are manned.

On July 20, the Ministry of Health announced that NEA and town councils would progressively introduce TraceTogether-only SafeEntry and SafeEntry Gateway check-in requirements at all markets and hawker centres.

NEA said last Friday that access control with SafeEntry at markets and hawker centres has since been implemented.

The measures come after a surge in Covid-19 cases at markets and hawker centres in recent weeks. They were likely seeded when fishmongers visited Jurong Fishery Port to collect seafood stocks and had contact with infected cases there.

As at Saturday, there were 1,027 cases in the Jurong Fishery Port and Hong Lim Market and Food Centre cluster.

When The Straits Times visited Yuhua Village Market and Food Centre at 10am on Sunday, there was a steady stream of people entering the market in an orderly fashion. But the premises were not packed.

People checking out with TraceTogether at Jurong West 505 Market and Food Centre on Aug 1, 2021. - The Straits Times/ANNPeople checking out with TraceTogether at Jurong West 505 Market and Food Centre on Aug 1, 2021. - The Straits Times/ANN

Among those buying groceries was Mumtaj Begum, 39, whose trolley was filled with a week's worth of vegetables.

The warehouse packer said she was glad to see that Covid-19 safety measures have been stepped up.

She added: "It's necessary. Some people don't want to carry their token, but they may have Covid-19. Every Sunday, there is a long queue (at the wet market), so even if you come early, it will still be crowded."

She noted that the hawker centre would carry a lower risk as it is very spacious.

Tan Bee Chew, a carrot cake stallholder, said signs have been placed around the perimeter of the hawker centre to help people find the entrance.

But she noted that not all shoppers have followed the rules, having seen people who tried to circumvent the interim fencing.

Tan, 75, added: "When I see them, I tell them they will be fined if they do this. I've also seen people reporting them to safe distancing ambassadors."

At the market at 505 Jurong West Street 52, Ms Lyn Quek, 37, was queueing to buy porridge for lunch.

The civil servant said: "The measures can be a bit inconvenient, but if they keep everyone safe, we just have to follow them during this period."

Another patron, Madam Yeo Hui Ting, 53, did her SafeEntry check-in, though no safe distancing ambassador was present.

She was buying groceries on behalf of an elderly relative as well as lunch for her father, who is in his 80s.

The private tutor said: "It just takes a few seconds to check in with the SafeEntry Gateway, and it will help speed up contact tracing."

NEA said last Friday that QR codes had previously been placed at individual stalls and toilets for patrons to scan in to facilitate contact tracing.

But given how transmissible the Delta variant of the Covid-19 virus is, there is an increased need to trace the cases faster, the agency added.

"Social responsibility is critical to keep our community and stallholders safe," said NEA.

"We can best support our stallholders by continuing to patronise their stalls, while ensuring that we adhere closely to SafeEntry check-in requirements and other safe management measures."- The Straits Times/ANN

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