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Toh Ting Wei
The Straits Times
October 19, 2021
More than 800 people were found to have been eating at hawker centres in the past week despite not being fully vaccinated against Covid-19, ahead of enforcement action against such diners kicking in from Wednesday (Oct 20).
Meanwhile, 92 people were caught for flouting Covid-19 safe management measures at hawker centres between Friday and Sunday last week.
The offences include gathering in groups of more than two, not maintaining a safe distance of at least 1m and not wearing masks.
The figures were released by the National Environment Agency (NEA) on Tuesday.
Vaccination-differentiated safe management measures that limited dining in to only those who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 had kicked in on Oct 13.
Hence, those who are not vaccinated or partially vaccinated can only enter hawker centres to buy takeaway food. Exceptions are made for children aged 12 and below, who can dine at hawker centres even if they are not vaccinated.
NEA said on Tuesday that partially vaccinated or unvaccinated individuals found to be dining at hawker centres in the past week were urged to finish their meals and leave the hawker centre promptly.
This is due to the authorities taking an advisory approach in the past week to let people adapt to the new rules.
NEA said that enforcement actions will be taken against people who breach the dining-in rule from Wednesday but did not specify what the penalties will be.
Police assistance will be requested for those who refuse to cooperate with the directions of the safe distancing enforcement officers, NEA added.
It said that it has worked with town councils to implement the rule to allow only vaccinated individuals to dine at hawker centres.
"Safe distancing ambassadors and personnel from the town councils will continue to remind patrons that only those who are fully vaccinated can dine in," said NEA.
"To avoid queues and inconvenience to patrons who may be entering the hawker centre to purchase food for takeaway, checks on vaccination status are not conducted at entry points."
NEA also said that stallholders at hawker centres do not need to check their patrons' vaccination status. Instead, safe distancing enforcement officers will conduct selective checks of patrons who are dining in to ensure they are vaccinated.
Diners can either show the officers their vaccination status on their TraceTogether app, or provide their TraceTogether token to be scanned.
"We continue to encourage seniors to minimise dining activity at hawker centres and opt for takeaway food instead," said NEA.
"Where possible, request household members or neighbours to purchase takeaway food on their behalf."
On the 92 individuals found to have breached safe management measures at hawker centres over the weekend, NEA said they were found at hawker centres such as Newton Food Centre, Golden Mile Food Centre, and Chinatown Complex Market and Food Centre.
Enforcement action has been taken against these individuals, said NEA.
First-time offenders who breach safe distancing measures are fined $300, and repeat offenders $1,000.
Offenders may also face prosecution in court for egregious cases, and higher fines if convicted.
NEA added that it has set up surveillance cameras at selected centres to complement the physical monitoring of compliance of Covid-19 safe management measures.
"NEA seeks the public's support to work with safe distancing ambassadors and enforcement officers, who are tasked with ensuring that safe management measures are complied with for everyone's safety," said NEA.
"The authorities take a serious view of those who verbally or physically abuse public officers and will press charges in court where warranted."