Pek Kio food centre open again but business slow

Patrons at Pek Kio Market and Food Centre pictured around 8.30am on 27 May, 2016. The market and food centre reopened after a two-day closure, a precautionary measure after a spate of gastric flu cases in the Owen Road area.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Business was not back to usual at Pek Kio Market and Food Centre when it reopened yesterday morning, following a two-day closure prompted by an outbreak of gastric flu in the area.

Hawkers said business was much slower, but hoped it will recover in the next two weeks.

Mr Wu Kim See, 63, who runs an economic rice stall, said he served fewer than 10 customers in the four hours after opening at 5am, a drop from the usual 30 to 40.

While business picked up a little during lunchtime, he said he still made 50 per cent less than usual.

Mr Lee Gim Koon, 56, who sells carrot cake, pointed to the empty tables and said: "It's very quiet, you can see. But I think the residents nearby will come back. The rest might think twice."

The centre was closed for two days for thorough cleaning and disinfection by the authorities as a precautionary measure after a spate of more than 180 cases of the viral illness in the Owen Road area.

In a joint statement yesterday, the National Environment Agency (NEA), Ministry of Health (MOH), Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority and PUB said pigeons and rats are unlikely to be the source of the outbreak, although they are "nonetheless unwelcome pests". 

Tanjong Pagar Town Council, they added, will get its pest control operator to step up pest control measures and conduct weekly treatments on rat burrows.

To date, 144 cases were verified as linked to the outbreak. Of these, 17 patients have been admitted to hospital. Seven have been discharged and the rest are in stable condition.

But customers told The Straits Times they were not worried about eating at the centre as it had been cleaned thoroughly.

Said 44-year-old relationship manager Rickie Teo: "I think it's a one-off incident."

Ms Yvonne Chan, 35, a senior customer service officer, said: "Actually, it's not the food stalls that should be blamed. People should also practise good hygiene."

The Tanjong Pagar Town Council has stepped up pest control, MP for the area Melvin Yong said.

He visited the centre yesterday to see if the crowd was back, and to gather feedback from residents and stallholders. They told him business had suffered.

"I hope I can reinforce the message that the closure of the market is, really, a precautionary measure. The findings by NEA and investigation by MOH have not indicated any stall as the source of the gastric flu," he said.

Dr Angela Cheong, who runs a clinic at Block 45, Owen Road, had alerted the Health Ministry after she started seeing about 30 patients a day for the infection from May 16, up from five to 10 usually.

Up till Tuesday, she had treated 155 patients for the infection, she said. The number she had seen tapered to 18 from Wednesday till noon yesterday, she said.

Investigations into the source of the outbreak are ongoing.

This article was first published on May 28, 2016.
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