Singapore

Covid-19: Cops disperse crowd outside school uniform shop

Education Ministry later assures parents that students will get more time to buy their uniforms

Several people arrived two hours before opening time just to be first in line to get a queue ticket.

By around 10am, more than 100 people had formed a snaking queue, and the police moved in to disperse the crowd as some were ignoring the 1m safe distancing requirement.

They were not jostling to get tickets for a K-pop concert (as if, when there is a pandemic) or the latest iPhone.

They were anxious parents desperate to buy or exchange school uniforms for their children before the new school year begins next Monday.

Six police officers were seen outside Jeep Sing Fashion store at Block 4012 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10 urging parents to stand further apart and encouraging some to leave, The Straits Times reported.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) later assured parents that students will be given more time in the first few weeks of January to buy school uniforms.

The schools will work closely with their vendors to ensure students can buy their uniforms as soon as possible and facilitate the sale of uniforms in school, MOE told The Straits Times.

As a result of Covid-19, schools were advised to make adjustments to their year-end activities to safeguard the health of the school community, the ministry explained.

This included asking schools to work with vendors to allow parents or guardians to buy the uniforms and books online and provide home deliveries. Vendors could also allow appointments to buy uniforms in schools or at physical stores.

Noting the challenges faced by parents and vendors, MOE said the schools will make arrangements for students unable to buy uniforms in time for the start of school.

This includes allowing them to report in their physical education attire or primary school uniforms.

On its website, Jeep Sing had told customers not to turn up as all queue tickets for the day had been issued.

Madam Sharon Yee, 33, was among those who could not get a queue ticket despite being at the store at 8.55am.

She had wanted to buy uniforms for her son, who will be starting secondary school.

Secondary 1 posting results were released on Dec 22.

EMBARRASSED

The civil servant told The Straits Times: "My son can't wear his primary school uniform for the first few days of Secondary 1 because he has outgrown it.

"He might feel embarrassed that he doesn't have a uniform when his friends have theirs."

Some parents said they did not order uniforms online as the delivery time, which could exceed a week, was too long.

Jeep Sing declined comment when contacted by The Straits Times. But it apologised to customers on Facebook for the long queues and delay in orders.

"In view of Covid-19, we are experiencing a massive surge in demand for our uniforms in terms of physical and e-commerce orders," it added.

The police also cleared crowds of parents twice last week at school uniform shop Bibi & Baba in Far East Shopping Centre, said its business development manager Nick Koh.

One possible factor for the queues was about half of the secondary schools supplied by Bibi & Baba not allowing it to sell in the school premises due to Covid-19 concerns, said Mr Koh.

Queues were more orderly for Bibi & Baba yesterday, with its staff reminding customers to follow safe distancing rules.

Ms Doris Yeo, managing director of Shanghai School Uniforms, said its queues have been manageable.

She told The New Paper: "Due to Covid, we introduced an appointment booking system to comply with the safe distancing measures.

"We still get customers coming without a booking and have to turn them away when the queues get too long. We have had a huge increase in our online sales this year compared with previous years which had almost zero take-up."

However, some parents face difficulties making online purchases and have issues with making payment, said Ms Yeo.

Some parents also prefer going to the store with their children to see the uniforms.

"Though the children cannot try on the uniforms, some parents feel more comfortable when they can feel the sample uniforms and put it on their children's backs to gauge the size."

ADDITIONAL REPORTING: SAMUEL DEVARAJ

Education