Coronavirus: Empty trains and quiet streets as Singapore enters day 1 of 'circuit breaker' mode

A quiet Raffles Place on April 7, 2020.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - There were empty seats on the city-bound MRT, and when the train pulled into Raffles Place station, there were no mad dashes. It was not the usual weekday morning in the Central Business District on the first day that Singapore went into "circuit breaker" mode on Tuesday (April 7).

An empty Raffles Place MRT station on April 7, 2020. PHOTO: The Straits Times

With most workplaces shut, traffic was light after parents dropped off their children at school - the last day before full home-based learning kicks in on Wednesday.

In the heartland, wet markets, hawker centres and other eateries were open but it was takeaways for all.

The measures are aimed at containing the spread of Covid-19, which has infected 1,375 in Singapore as of Tuesday.

Mr Kevin K, 41, who works in a bank in Raffles Place, said that while the usual peak hour crowd had begun dispersing from a few weeks back, when some people started working from home, Tuesday's foot traffic was the lowest he had ever seen on a working day.

A quiet Raffles Place on April 7, 2020. PHOTO: The Straits Times

"You can close your eyes and walk around, and it would probably take quite a while before you hit anyone," he said.

Mr Kenny Chua, 38, also a bank employee, said: "I think the full impact will be felt tomorrow when the schools close."

Banks that provide essential services are among the workplaces that are allowed to remain open, though many have scaled back on the number of staff working from the office.

At Marine Terrace hawker centre, vendors told customers: "Only takeaways."

People queueing for food at Marine Terrace hawker centre on April 7, 2020. PHOTO: The Straits Times
At a coffee shop in Simei on April 7, 2020, all chairs have been removed. PHOTO: The Straits Times

Hawker stalls had put away their bowls and utensils, with only takeout containers available.

"If customers eat here, they will be fined and so will we," said wonton noodle seller Yeung Nai Har. "We are preparing less food so that there is less wastage."

Serangoon MRT station - usually packed between 8.30am and 9am on weekdays - was also emptier this morning. The station serves as an interchange for the North East and Circle lines.

There were fewer people than on a Sunday, with no queues at any of the platform doors, The Straits Times observed.

An unusually quiet Dhoby Ghaut MRT station at 10.45am on April 7, 2020. PHOTO: The Straits Times

City-bound service was frequent, with trains arriving well within two minutes, and often, within one minute. Of the 12 trains observed, seats were available on all.

A customer service officer said there were schoolchildren earlier, so the platform was a little more crowded. But she expected that to thin out when full home-based learning starts on Wednesday. 

Meanwhile, Transit Link said it will refund unused value of the monthly concession passes of all concession cardholders that were purchased before April 4. 

An empty Simei MRT station with only a few commuters at 10.35am on April 7, 2020. PHOTO: The Straits Times

The refunded amount for all concession groups will be pro-rated based on the period from Tuesday to May 4, and for students shifting to home-based learning, from Wednesday to May 4, or up to the pass expiry date, whichever is earlier.

Concession cardholders who wish to purchase a new pass can visit TransitLink’s Ticket Office to use the refunded amount to offset the cost of a pass.

Otherwise, they can redeem the refunded amount as a transport e-voucher that can be used to top up their travel cards from May 5. 

For the latest updates on the coronavirus, visit here.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.