Walkabout by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on 22 March at Teck Ghee Market amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leaders, members and volunteers of various political parties in Singapore have been walking the ground amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, following the release of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC)’s report on 13 Mar.

The ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) has not exempted itself from holding walkabouts as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has reportedly been meeting residents in his constituency Ang Mo Kio GRC on Sun (22 Mar).

Flanked by several members or volunteers, Mr Lee — in a video forwarded to TOC on Mon (23 Mar) — can be seen in the video handing out what appeared to be small bottles of hand sanitiser to patrons at the Teck Ghee Market and Food Centre.

Just last week, Minister of National Development Lawrence Wong, co-chairman of the task force on COVID-19, announced that the Government will step up its efforts to enforce stricter social distancing measures, in the wake of 40 new cases recorded by the Ministry of Health on Fri (20 Mar).

Mr Wong told a press conference last Fri that one of the enhanced measures entails ensuring that operators of venues in public places adopt the separation of at least one metre between customers.

MOH recommended the following steps:

  • Queues on premises such as outside restaurants and retail stores should be kept fast-moving, which could be done by ensuring that all checkout counters are open, and encouraging self-checkout to minimise contact with counter staff. Lines should clearly be marked to help people follow the appropriate distancing;
  • Food and beverage venues should maintain a distance of at least one metre between tables, and between seats. Where seats are fixed, including our hawker centres, operators should ensure alternate seats are marked out. Individuals and family members who wish to seat together should continue to do so, but there should be a safe distance maintained between different groups; and
  • Entertainment venues and attractions such as cinemas/theatres, theme parks, casinos, museums and galleries should adopt measures appropriate to their venue to ensure separation of at least a metre amongst patrons. This could include reducing operating capacity to provide more spacing, installing floor markers at queuing areas, and adopting chequerboard or alternate seating.

The Government, said Mr Wong, has been working with all F&B outlets to ensure that these measures are enforced.

“Whether it is a hawker centre, coffee shop or restaurant, there will be a safe distance between diners. And through licensing, we will enforce this,” he said.

Mr Wong stressed the importance of Singaporeans cooperating with the enhanced social distancing measures.

“We will be enforcing these rules. It will lead to some inconvenience, but we will need Singaporeans to cooperate and take responsibility for these changes.

“If we are all disciplined about this, it will give us better control over the situation, and enable us to suppress and slow down the spread of the virus,” he said.

Individuals in the video, however, were seen standing and sitting in close proximity to one another as a handful of people in the crowd waited to greet the PM up-close.

Even Mr Lee himself in a Facebook post today reminded the public to “take the necessary precautions and remember to be socially responsible”.

“We are getting used to temperature checks, contact tracing forms, safe distancing rules, and frequent reminders to wash our hands. As long as we take the necessary precautions and remember to be socially responsible, we can get through this season together,” he said.

Seeing the size of the crowd at Teck Ghee Market during Mr Lee’s walkabout on Sun, however, begs a pertinent question: “What happened to social distancing?”

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