Image source: OzGFK/Flickr

Keeping in line with the government’s call for social distancing as a defence against Covid-19, National Environment Agency (NEA) started an initiative to paste red or blue tape on the seats at some hawker centres, encouraging the customers to maintain a healthy distance between each other.

NEA’s initiative follows the stringent social distancing measures announced last Friday (13 March) by Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong and Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong, as an effort to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

Among the measures, the government asked to reduce close contact at public venues, such as keeping seats set at least a metre apart at dining venues.

Image from Today Online

According to TODAY Online, NEA started the social distancing trial but placing seat markings at three hawker centres, included Sembawang Hills Food Centre, Pasir Ris Central Food Centre and Tanglin Halt Market and Food Centre.

The spokesperson said that the function of seat marking is as a guide for the people to practice social distancing when dining out.

“NEA will evaluate the effectiveness of this trial and monitor feedback before deciding if seats at more hawker centres would also be marked out. While our hawker centres can be crowded at peak hours, they are not air-conditioned or enclosed, and are generally well ventilated or of an open dining environment,” the spokesperson told TODAY.

The initiative by NEA, however, do not seem favourable for the customers and business owners.

Many customers are not aware of the notices and the purpose of seat marking with the red tape, where they either assumed the seats were spoilt or they just neglected the notices and sat on the seat as usual.

Some of the business owners also told TODAY that the food centres with small seating capacity would not have enough seats to accommodate the large crowd during lunchtime if they practice the social distance by sitting according to the marked seats.

Netizens respond negatively over the social distancing measures adopted in the hawker centres

Meanwhile, the social distancing measures adopted in the hawker centres has received a negative response from netizens. Writing in the Facebook pages of TODAY and Straits Times, many netizens opined that the measure is not effective and causes inconvenience to customers especially during peak hours such as lunchtime.

Some netizens also mocked the government for practising social-distancing approach in the public venues, with some saying that this approach will not be useful in closed areas, such as lifts and MRT carriages.

The other netizens expressed their irritation over the idea and the government’s approach to social distancing. They think the government should implement a better strategy instead of adopting this “crappy” and “stupid” idea.

Some netizens also raised the issue of maintaining social-distance on public transport, as many people still rely on it to go to work. They suggested that all companies should implement a work-from-home policy or staggered work hours to reduce crowds at public transport during peak hours.

   

A few netizens opined that social awareness among the public and individuals are more important than putting the tape on the chair to keep maintain social distance, which may not help much to stop spreading of the coronavirus.

On top of putting red tape on the chairs to remind people of social-distancing, some netizens suggested a few approaches such as encouraging takeaway, stepping up the cleaning of hawker centres, or more strictly implementing the social distancing measures to protect the frontline workers.

While a few netizens doubted the effectiveness of the measures, asking what if the people did not obey the rules and whether fines or any reprimands will be imposed on those who disobey.

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