Singaporeans are out and about before new coronavirus measures kick in

Singaporeans are out and about before new coronavirus measures kick in
At malls like VivoCity yesterday, queues could be seen outside Toys 'R' Us, Popular and Challenger outlets as parents bought books, toys and laptops to prepare their children for home-based learning from Wednesday.

The day after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the closure of most workplaces and non-essential services to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Singaporeans were out stocking up on groceries, toys, electronics and other items in preparation for the weeks ahead.

At malls yesterday, long queues could be seen outside Toys 'R' Us, Popular and Challenger outlets, as parents stocked up on books, toys and even laptops to prepare their children for home-based learning come Wednesday.

With the impending closure of most shops, services and attractions on Tuesday, some took the chance yesterday to go out for a last hurrah.

Some were seen getting haircuts and pedicures at malls, while small groups visited Universal Studios Singapore, face masks on.

Ngee Ann Polytechnic student Tan Jun An, who visits the gym two or three times a week, headed for the Decathlon outlet at City Square Mall yesterday morning after hearing that fitness facilities will have to shut.

At the sports shop, he shelled out about $180 for an abdominal roller, weights and a pair of gloves.

Fitness gear retailers said they have been overwhelmed since the new rules were announced last Friday.

Decathlon said sales have increased 43 per cent in the last two days, with dumb-bells, yoga mats and toning bands the most popular items.

Health and fitness equipment supplier Aibi has extended its working hours till midnight over the weekend to cope with the large orders for products like treadmills, benches, weights and bicycles.

Restaurants and hawker centres were crowded yesterday morning and during lunchtime, though less so than usual.

Diners said they were generally supportive of the no-dine-in rule that kicks in on Tuesday.

Many said they were out for a meal to enjoy some fresh air, as they now spend most of their time at home.

Mr William Lee, who was having a meal at Clementi Market and Food Centre, said that not being able to eat out for a month is a minor inconvenience.

"It will be more difficult to deal with the situation if there are more cases," said Mr Lee, 67, who is retired from the finance industry.

Under the new measures, staff of companies offering non-essential services are to work from home if possible. Others whose workplaces will remain open may be inconvenienced, some pointed out.

This is especially so for workers who do not have somewhere suitable in their workplace to have their packed lunch, said a diner, 61, at Pasar Bedok Central food centre who gave his name only as Edward.

While long queues were observed at supermarkets that The Sunday Times visited yesterday, shoppers did not appear to be panic buying.

Some wet markets were crowded yesterday morning, and not all shoppers adhered to the 1m safe distancing rule.

Ghim Moh Market and Tampines Round Market, for example, were bustling with long queues snaking down narrow walkways for fresh cuts of meat and seafood.

Madam Normah Nonis, who sells vegetables at Geylang Bahru Market, said that safe distancing measures are hard to enforce in wet markets.

"We put markings on the ground, but it's hard to ensure that people keep to them since they may want to inspect the produce before they buy," the 53-year-old said.

The National Environment Agency yesterday began a trial at Serangoon Garden market to limit the number of shoppers allowed in at any one time. It said it would evaluate the effectiveness of the crowd-control measures before extending them to other markets.

Yesterday morning, all entrances but one to the market had been cordoned off. Crowds, however, were thin, and market stallholders said the measures were unnecessary as the market is rarely crowded.

Mr Hamid Aziz, who runs a meat stall at the market, said that regulars make up the bulk of customers, with many calling ahead to place orders.

While business has not slowed much, Mr Hamid said it is unclear if customers will still venture out once the stricter rules are in place.

Some diners said they plan to cook more and buy fewer takeaways once the measures take effect.

Madam Lian Wong, 62, who was having breakfast with her daughter at Ghim Moh Market yesterday, said they will have to suspend their weekly routine.

Her daughter, who gave her name only as Ann, 37, said: "There's more atmosphere eating here, but as long as locals can get their food, they're fine."

Madam Irene Christian, 62, said she will be staying home once the new rules kick in. "We usually cook rather than eat out, anyway, so I'm stocking up on some necessities," said the secretary.

The authorities have appealed to Singapore residents to leave their homes only if necessary, amid a rise in locally transmitted cases.

Sales executive Eugenia Low, who bought food from the Holland Village Food Centre to eat at home, said she will not be going out for the rest of the weekend.

"If everyone goes out now, it would defeat the purpose of the new measures," said Ms Low, 24.

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

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