Singapore

Chinatown market less packed as safe management measures stepped up

Shoppers at the Chinatown Complex wet market yesterday morning seemed mindful of safe management measures, forming orderly queues to get into the market and at popular stalls selling seafood and steamboat ingredients.

The market was far less crowded than on Tuesday, when it had neared its capacity of 300 people at any one time by noon.

Yesterday, there appeared to be about 150 shoppers at noon.

Various entrances were blocked as part of access control, and floor markings reminded customers to stand 1m apart.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) stepped up safe management measures over the past week as footfall at Chinatown Complex is expected to rise with Chinese New Year approaching.

The flow of patrons into the market may also be stopped even if the capacity has not been reached, if localised crowding occurs at certain sections of the market, said NEA.

Experts said there is always a risk of a Covid-19 cluster developing in a market. "Although community transmission is low, there are sporadic cases, and we did see some cases late last year at another popular market, Tekka. So although the risk is low, it is not zero," said Associate Professor Alex Cook, vice-dean of research at National University of Singapore's Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health.

Professor Teo Yik Ying, who is the dean of the school, said there is some additional risk at wet markets as shoppers communicate directly with the stallholders, and cash and food products change hands.

"Let us not forget that the very first location flagged for a known community spread was effectively a wet market in Wuhan," said Prof Teo.

He noted that crowds can increase the extent and speed of the spread of Covid-19, leading to a higher risk of an accelerated outbreak in the community.

In an advisory issued to stallholders yesterday morning, NEA urged them to ensure customers maintain a safe distance of at least 1m from one another while queueing.

"Stallholders are strictly not allowed to cause obstruction by placing articles beyond the stipulated area at all times," the advisory said.

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