COVID-19: Popular beaches closed, $300 fine for first-time enhanced distancing offenders

PHOTO: Ministry of Communications and Information
East Coast Park (FILE PHOTO: Ministry of Communications and Information)

[UPDATE: Fine of $300 from April 12 for first-time offenders who break circuit breaker enhanced distancing measures.]

SINGAPORE — Instead of a written warning, those who break circuit breaker enhanced distancing rules for the first time will be fined $300.

In a Facebook post announcing this on Saturday (11 April), Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli added that repeat offenders will face higher fines or prosecution in court for egregious cases. These measures will start on Sunday.

Earlier, the National Parks Board (NParks) announced that it will close six popular beaches in Singapore for the current enhanced safe distancing period, in order to minimise further spread of COVID-19.

In a media statement on Saturday, it said that beaches at East Coast Park, Changi Beach Park, Pasir Ris Park, Punggol Point Park, Sembawang Park and West Coast Park will be closed until 4 May to prevent gathering in groups.

In addition, NParks will also close the following facilities in its parks: playgrounds/nature play-gardens, fishing areas, fitness corners/stations, football fields, basketball/volleyball court facilities, dog runs and water play/water recreational facilities.

It will also suspend bookings venues and barbecue pits, applications of camping, hiking and filming and research permits, as well as its own activities and events.

Facility closures in parks and gardens

There will also be the following changes in the parks and gardens:

  • Bukit Timah Nature Reserve: closure of Exhibition Hall

  • Jurong Lake Gardens: closure of Lakeside Field, Butterfly Field, and the Oval

  • Pulau Ubin: closure of Nature Gallery, Chek Jawa Visitor Centre and Ubin camping areas and campsites

  • Sembawang Hot Spring Park: closure of hot spring stations

  • Singapore Botanic Gardens: closure of National Orchid Garden, Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden, Heritage Museum, Ethnobotany Centre, Library, CDL Green Gallery, Seed Bank and lawn at Eco Lake

  • Sisters’ Islands Marine Park: closure of Marine Park Public Gallery

  • Southern Ridges: closure of Forest Walk and Henderson Waves

  • Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve Mangrove: closure of Wetland Centre, Mangrove and Nature Galleries

  • Food and beverages outlet to offer only take-away and delivery services

  • Closure of retail and recreation outlets in parks, except those providing essential services

NParks said that more than 350 parks and gardens will remain open during the enhanced safe distancing period.

It reminds the public to head to nearby parks or gardens alone or with immediate family members in the same household only. Gathering in groups and all social/group recreational activities are not permitted. Some of the parks could be closed temporarily to ensure ample space for safe distancing.

We have to do what is right and necessary: Lawrence Wong

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said in a post on his Facebook page on Saturday that such tougher measures are necessary as it is increasingly difficult for safe distancing measures to be adhered to.

“In theory, we could keep most places open, so long as safe distancing measures are strictly adhered to. But increasingly we see that this is hard to achieve,” he wrote in the post.

“So tougher measures are necessary. Yesterday, we closed off selected areas in our parks and nature reserves. Today we will be closing all beaches in Singapore.

“This is a public health crisis, and we have to do what is right and necessary to protect Singaporeans.”

Wong said in the post that he has received a lot of feedback on the safe distancing measures, and there are opposing views on whether the current measures are adequate.

“Some say that it’s only a partial lockdown and ask for a full lockdown, which they think will be more effective,” he wrote. “Others say the current measures are already too restrictive and causing mental and social problems for themselves and their families.

“I understand that there are some who genuinely find it hard to adjust. We will do our best to support them... Remember the bottom line is that each one of us must drastically reduce our contacts with others for the circuit breaker to be effective. And we have to sustain this effort not just for a few days but till the end of the month at least.”

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