'Strong public health reasons' for hawker centre, kopitiam dine-in rules: MOH, NEA

·Editorial Team
People seen at the Changi Village Hawker Centre on 27 May 2021, amid Singapore's Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) period. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)
People seen at the Changi Village Hawker Centre. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — While the government is concerned for the well-being of hawkers, it cannot ignore the "strong public health reasons" for only allowing groups of up to two to dine-in at hawker centres and coffee shops regardless of their vaccination status, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the National Environment Agency (NEA) on Thursday (26 August).

By comparison, those who are fully-vaccinated are allowed to dine in at other food and beverage establishments, in groups of up to five. 

In a joint statement, MOH and NEA said allowing groups of up to five to dine would be "impractical for hawker centres and coffee shops, which are open and porous, with a mixture of dine-in and takeaway customers," according to a CNA report. 

"If we require vaccination status checks at hawker centres and coffee shops, it will add to the burden of already struggling operators and stallholders," said the agencies. 

They were responding to a Facebook post by prominent food blogger KF Seetoh, who questioned the current COVID-19 measures at coffee shops and hawker centres.

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"It's still two at the kopitiam and hawkers but ironically five at indoor air-con food courts (as if circulated indoor air is much better)," Seetoh wrote.

"For every extra day this (two-people) mandate exists for hawker centres and kopitiam, something gives - jobs, stall and shop closures, what's left of that little opportunity to earn some street food monies, ability to pay bills, mental wellness, less supply business. I stopped counting after over 150 little hawkers (excluding restaurants) went belly up last year. I still get info about closures almost daily.

"It's quite devastating on the ground but no media or politician really delves into the real damage such easy to implement lockdown measures are really doing to the industry."

Financial assistance for hawkers 

MOH and NEA added that the Singapore government has supported the hawkers with schemes such as the Market and Hawker Centre Relief Fund, where cooked food and market stallholders at hawker centres and markets receive $500 in assistance. 

The relief fund comes in addition to existing rental waivers and subsidies in place since the start of 2021.

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