COVID-19: Crowds form but public still cautious about going out during Phase 2

·Senior Reporter
·6-min read

SINGAPORE — While crowds were seen milling about shopping centres and markets on the first day of Singapore’s Phase 2 reopening on Friday (19 June), those interviewed were still cautious about the relaxation of rules.

Queues were seen forming at shops selling beauty products, street vendors selling masks, bubble tea shops and a gaming shop in Clementi Town Centre during the lunch peak hour, while congregations of students formed on the streets of Orchard Road.

While most individuals that Yahoo News Singapore spoke to were happy with the lifting of certain measures, most were cautious about going to crowded places and had not made plans that differed vastly from their schedules in the past few weeks.

Most in fact were caught by the suddenness of the announcement when it was made on Monday.

A vendor selling face masks seen at the Clementi Town Centre on 19 June 2020. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)
A vendor selling face masks seen at the Clementi Town Centre on 19 June 2020. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)

Asked about the first thing she did upon hearing about the lifting of measures, housewife Shirley Ong described Monday’s announcement as “too sudden”, as she did not expect the Phase 1 to end so soon.

“I think it’s not the time to be going out to eat as it’s very crowded,” the 42-year-old said.

“If I need something, I will go out to buy, but I won’t be going out very often. I think there’s a need to be prudent and cautious and I’m afraid of a second wave.”

Worried, but optimistic

The homemaker, who was queueing for chicken rice at the hawker centre at Clementi Town Centre, said she did not have much plans in the coming Father’s Day weekend and for the long term.

Her first stop on Friday was to Popular Bookstore, to buy stationery and assessment books for her children – after she had to buy pen refill supplies online during the two-month circuit breaker period.

“I’m getting used to staying at home,” said the mother of three children aged six to 14.

“My kids are more disappointed that they have to go to school. At first they didn’t like home-based learning but after a while they got used to it. Last week, they went to school and they found wearing masks very difficult as it is difficult to breathe and it’s hot.”

“Given a choice, they now want home-based learning from the comfort of their home,” she said, adding that her children were now not allowed to interact as much as before.

People seen queuing at a bubble tea shop in Clementi on 19 June 2020. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)
People seen queuing at a bubble tea shop in Clementi on 19 June 2020. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)

Asked if she was worried about catching the coronavirus, given more people are milling about, the mother said she was “a little bit worried” but “optimistic”.

“I am more worried about children,” she said.

‘Like a weekend crowd’

Singapore exited a two-month-long partial lockdown, known as the circuit breaker period, after 1 June. The authorities said then that Singapore would progressively reopen in three phases, with fitness facilities, beauty salons and the majority of retail services to resume in Phase 2.

Previously, the Singapore government said that Phase 2 could begin before end-June, depending on the number of COVID-19 transmissions in the community in the first two weeks of the month.

As of Friday, Singapore had 142 new cases of the virus, bringing the total number of infections to 41,615. Of these, at least 32,712 have since recovered.

Manager Elaine Lua, who was spotted buying bubble tea with her husband, said that she would be staying home for the weekend, adding she did not expect so many people to be out on Friday.

Describing the crowd, the 26-year-old said it was “like a weekend crowd”.

“We will (quickly) buy whatever we want, and then we will go back,” she added.

For undergraduate Ngeow Xiu Qi, 26, the first thing he did upon hearing news of the Phase 2 reopening date was to make plans with his friends for the weekend.

“For me, I’m still doing the same things,” he said. “Most of my friends are on internship, so we can only (meet) on weekends. I’m on holiday, so I’m just doing my own personal things on weekdays.”

Youths congregate at Orchard Road

Human traffic along Orchard Road on 19 June, the first day of Singapore's Phase 2 reopening.(PHOTO:Yahoo News Singapore/Dhany Osman)
Human traffic along Orchard Road on 19 June, the first day of Singapore's Phase 2 reopening.(PHOTO:Yahoo News Singapore/Dhany Osman)

Over at Orchard Road, queues were seen at entrances of luxury retails shops and large numbers of people were seen strolling down the boulevards, with youths comprising a majority of them.

One of them, 18-year-old Coco Loh, said that while she had made plans to go out with friends, she remains worried about contracting the coronavirus and infecting her family members.

Another individual, data scientist Rahul Sahgal, was heading to buy an acai bowl from his favourite restaurant when approached. The 52-year-old said that restaurants he had called up to make reservations for Father’s Day were fully booked.

Asked if he was worried about contracting the coronavirus with more people up and about, he commented that, as a statistician, he was “not too worried” since from what he reads and knows, the chances of developing severe complications from COVID-19 are extremely low.

“We have to find a way to live with this,” he said. “Even if the cases go up, I will continue to be cautious like I was before. Maybe I’ll socialise less, meet fewer people. Otherwise I’ll carry on with life.”

A queue was seen forming outside Louis Vuitton at Ion Orchard on 19 June. (PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore/Dhany Osman)
A queue was seen forming outside Louis Vuitton at Ion Orchard on 19 June. (PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore/Dhany Osman)

Tanut Watanachanobol, who works in sales, said that upon hearing the announcement, he exclaimed, “Oh yes, opening please! I wanted to get out of the house.”

The 34-year-old added he would not be concerned about contracting the coronavirus, as long as the public keep to the rules of social distancing and maintain good hygiene.

“I’ll be worried if cases spike, (but) I’m sure the government will be able to address these kind of issues,” he said.

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