Zika outbreak: Crowds return to 'ghost town' food centres

When news of the Zika virus first broke out, several places experienced a decline in customers to the point where they were dubbed "ghost towns" by the media.

Since then, two hawker centres have seen their crowds return. One of the main reasons for the change is that patrons are better informed about the effects of the Zika virus.

As of Friday, there were 14 new confirmed cases of Zika, according to latest figures on the National Environment Agency's website.

This brings the number of confirmed cases to 369 since the start of the outbreak of last month.

Mrs Cheong Leong, 60, who owns a noodle stall at Sims Vista Market and Food Centre, said that in the past, customers did not know the Zika virus was mild and thought that it was very dangerous for adults.

The return to business as usual is good news for the hawkers.

Mr Savis, 70, who sells Indian food at Mohd Sahbir Muslim Food in Sims Vista Market and Food Centre, is glad that customers are slowly returning.

He said: "Immediately after the reports (of the Zika virus) started coming out, people were scared and didn't come... We didn't make much, but we managed to get by."

According to Mr Savis, crowds have slowly returned since last Monday, and his fortunes turned around.

"Things are slowly picking up... I'm all right now," he said.

Mr Lim Cheng Hu, 64, who works part-time, said he is not worried about getting infected himself, but he has asked his daughter-in-law, who is four months pregnant, to stop visiting him at his home in Aljunied.

Following the initial Zika virus scare, diners have returned to Geylang East Centre and Food Corner. Photo: The New Paper

At Geylang East Centre Market and Food Centre, Madam Saniah Haji Abdullah, 54, who owns a Malay pastry shop, said that her business has improved by 50 per cent compared to when the outbreak first occurred.

She said that before the outbreak, she had more that 300 orders a day, but this dwindled to about 220 when customers stopped coming.

She said that the past few weeks were difficult as she still had to pay rent and buy ingredients. "No business, no money," she said.

Madam Saniah is "very happy" that her business is slowly gaining back its usual number of customers.

Mrs Piyarat Taitulanon, 28, housewife, who is a regular at Geylang East Centre Market and Food Corner, said that when her six-month-old daughter came down with a flu and rash, she stopped letting her go down.

Mrs Taitulanon has decided to take her daughter out again, but only after applying mosquito repellant on her.

Several customers at both food centres said they have not stopped going to the centres even during the height of the outbreak.

Mr Randy Lim, 31, who has two son, aged 11 and two, said he would take them out to eat every day as it is more convenient and he is not worried about the virus.


This article was first published on September 19, 2016.
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