Coronavirus: Stricter safe distancing measures thin crowds at malls

Crowds in Orchard Road were visibly thinner yesterday after stricter safe distancing measures were put in place, and the Government reminded the public to stay home and go out only for essential needs.

Shoppers dutifully queued to enter shopping centres to limit numbers inside, some for nearly an hour, while maintaining a 1m distance from the person in front.

Yet, the scenes at some places, including some markets, showed a different picture, with people seen getting up close and personal with one another as they jostled for attention from the stallholders.

For Mr Hide Takahashi, 42, a Japanese expatriate working in finance, it was “nearly impossible” for him and his wife to keep a distance of 1m from others in a packed supermarket in Bishan.

“We wore face masks and brought a hand sanitiser with us just in case, and we also tried our best to keep our distance from other people in the queue,” he said.

Over at some malls outside the city, shoppers were also spotted standing close to others, especially on escalators, while long queues formed for some popular hawker stalls, with customers failing to observe the 1m rule.

Since Friday, malls, attractions and other public venues have had to limit customer numbers and disperse groups of more than 10, or face penalties if they are later found to have been a place of transmission for the coronavirus.

At Ion Orchard, staff with handheld counters kept track at entrances of how many shoppers they let in. Popular stores such as sportswear brand Lululemon and Japanese retailer Muji had queues, with the customers kept at least 1m apart from one another.

Most shoppers said they were limiting the time they spent out of their homes. Marketing communications manager Zen Yip, who is in her early 40s, was with her husband at Ion Orchard “for a breather”.

Diners practise good social distancing habits at Ion Orchard. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

“I think it’s fine to be out as long as we take every safety precaution and keep to the basic rules, like washing your hands,” she said.

Ms Shania Loh, 22, a student at Nanyang Technological University, said she queued for 45 minutes to get into Lululemon. “The staff were very good – they came out to check that we maintained a safe distance in the queue.” Ms Loh said she was mindful of the Government’s public advisory to go out only for essentials, and would try to heed it.

A 38-year-old civil servant who wanted to be known only as Alex said he had to go to the bank to sign some documents, and had dropped in at Bugis Junction to buy some necessities. “It’s hard to stay away because some of these errands can’t be done online,” he said.

There were also fewer people at heartland malls such as Junction 8 and Tiong Bahru Plaza yesterday.

Yoga instructor Eliza Lek, 33, who was at Junction 8 to buy groceries for her family of five, said: “I wouldn’t have left the house if we weren’t all out of food. We have designated just one person to do grocery shopping.”

Shoppers practise social distancing at Wisma Atria. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

Yesterday, the authorities said they have put staff on the ground to help ensure that food and beverage, retail and tourism establishments comply with measures. If not, “they will be guided on finding suitable solutions”, they said in a statement.


I think it’s fine to be out as long as we take every safety precaution and keep to the basic rules, like washing your hands and observing personal hygiene.

MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER ZEN YIP, who was at Ion Orchard with her husband “for a breather”.


I wouldn’t have left the house if we weren’t all out of food. We have designated just one person to leave the house to do grocery shopping.

YOGA INSTRUCTOR ELIZA LEK, who was at Junction 8 to buy groceries for her family of five. 

Meanwhile, supermarkets and online grocery shopping services said they were doing their best to cope with demand. For instance, a Lazada spokesman said its e-grocer, RedMart, has set purchase limits on some product types and is making changes to the online store’s assortment to ensure there are enough daily essentials for customers.

• Additional reporting by Malavika Menon and Cheryl Teh

Singapore’s safe distancing rules

• People should not sit down less than 1m away from another person in public or on a fixed seat marked as not to be occupied, or stand in a queue less than 1m away from another person.

• Gatherings outside of work and school are limited to 10 people or fewer. A physical distance of at least 1m should be maintained between people when they are gathered for a prolonged period of time.

• All sporting events, exhibitions, trade fairs and public entertainment at cinemas, theatres, amusement or computer game centres, among other venues, have been banned from Friday to April 30. Also banned during this period are enrichment activities or tuition for children aged 18 and below at enrichment or tuition centres or sports facilities, and the provision of goods, entertainment or services at bars, karaoke lounges, nightclubs or discotheques.

• Organisers of events that are not banned must not allow more than 10 people to be present or take part, unless these are held in the course of business at a workplace or an educational institution.

• Owners or occupiers of places like eateries and malls must ensure that seats that are not fixed are at least 1m apart at all times. If the seats are fixed to the floor, alternate seats must be marked as seats not to be occupied. They have to ensure that people in a queue stand 1m apart from one another.

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