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People exercise at gyms without masks, but dining in restricted — S’pore restaurant owners express frustration at extension of COVID safe measures

The Independent logo The Independent 22/10/2021 Hana O
© The Independent Singapore

Singapore — In light of the extension of Covid-19 safe management measures announced recently, restaurant owners express frustration and ask for clearer goals.

A restaurant owner noted that a gym near his establishment would blast music during a class with members exercising without masks while the instructor yelled at the attendees.

“How is that different from my restaurant?” he asked.

“There is a lack of logic with the rules applied among the different sectors because you can have 100 people sitting in an aeroplane eating with their masks off. And is not having music really going to have an impact on Covid-19 transmission?” said another restaurant owner to Straits Times.

On Wednesday (Oct 20), the Ministry of Health (MOH) and multi-ministry task force for Covid-19 announced that Covid-19 restrictions would be extended to Nov 21.

Established on Sept 27, the new restrictions under the Stabilisation Phase was initially scheduled to last until Oct 24.

As Covid-19 cases continue to rise – creating a risk of overwhelming the country’s healthcare system, MOH announced that more time is needed to stabilise the situation.

Under the restrictions, social gatherings are capped to a maximum of two people, and work-from-home is still the default.

Those allowed to dine in at food and beverage establishments are limited to a maximum of two individuals.

“The important thing is it is no longer doubling every few days like what we had seen in late September and early October,” said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung during the announcement.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong mentioned that the Restaurant Association of Singapore had requested members of the same household to be allowed to sit together at a table of five.

In response, Mr Wong said, “For now, we think it’s still too risky to make such a move because of the pressure on the healthcare system.”

“But it is indeed something we are looking into,” he added.

However, restaurants owners questioned the reasoning behind disallowing a family of five to dine together.

“Does the family create more risk than when they are at home? We just want to understand what we are trying to achieve. Now we have no idea of the goals for the industry,” said a concerned restauranteur.

To support businesses affected by the extension of restrictions, Mr Wong revealed a S$640 million support package would be rolled out.

The package includes a 25 per cent wage support for sectors such as food and beverage establishments, retail, cinemas, tourism and gyms, and a half a month rental waiver for eligible building tenants.

“In many ways, I would say this is probably the most difficult phase in our journey through Covid-19 so far,” said Mr Wong.

He noted that this phase would not last indefinitely and requested more understanding and support from the public.

“At some point, the wave will peak. We will also have better immunity against the virus as more people get exposed to it, and we will have more people having boosters in the coming weeks,” Mr Wong added. /TISG

 

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