Singapore—The haze that has enveloped the country on unprecedented levels since 2015 is also causing a loss of income for open-air eateries, since unhealthy levels of pollution are causing people, including restaurant patrons, to choose to eat indoors.
Air pollution in Singapore has been worsening since last week, with the 24-hour Pollutant Standard Index (PSI) readings going up to 154 on Thursday morning, September 19.
According to the National Environment Agency (NEA), readings of 50 and below mean “good” air quality, readings of 51-100 mean “moderate” air quality and for readings between 101-200, this denoted “unhealthy” air quality.
The Straits Times (ST) spoke to operators of outdoor hawker stalls and other food and beverage establishments in the Central Business District on September 18, Wednesday, who said that there has been a drop of 20 percent in traffic for lunch and dinner slots within the last week.
The PSI levels have been higher in the southern parts of the country, which suggests that establishments in those areas are more affected.
ST quotes the assistant manager at restaurant OverEasy in Fullerton Road, Syahrul Jaffar, as saying “The last couple of days, we have seen about 20 per cent fewer customers than usual because of the haze.”
The 350-seater OverEasy restaurant has 75 percent of its tables outdoors and has a waterside view of Marina Bay.
Mr Syahrul told ST that even last weekend some customers already cancelled their dinner reservations due to the growing threat of haze, and that by last Friday, the restaurant employees had begun to wear masks for working, as well as offered masks to their guests.
Stall owners at Amoy Street Food Centre also told ST that they’ve seen the same drop in the number of customers over this week. The owner of one of the food stalls there, Authentic Thai, Jenny Juthamard, said: “Every day I check the haze and hope that it hasn’t gotten worse because it does affect business.”
However, there are also diners who have said that they do not mind the haze so much, such as Andre Wu, who told ST, The haze is getting bad but we still have to eat. I don’t mind being outdoors in the haze just for a while during lunch. It’s still bearable.”
According to the NEA, the haze is expected to continue, born by prevailing winds from southern Sumatra.
Twelve Firefly flights between Malaysia and Singapore were cancelled on Wednesday, September 18, due to poor visibility.
A spokesman for Firefly said that for Thursday, they will continue to monitor the situation for the twelve scheduled flights between Subang and Seletar Airports. She said, ”We are looking at the reports carefully to manage possible situations affecting the airspace.”
On another note, the organisers of Singapore Grand Prix, which is scheduled for this weekend, have said that there is a ‘contingency plan’ in place so that drivers can cope with the poor air quality in the country due to forest fires in neighbouring Indonesia.
Officials from Formula 1 are optimistic that the Grand Prix will proceed as scheduled despite the threat of haze.
However, according to a spokesperson for Formula 1, “The Singapore race organisers have covered the issue of air quality in the contingency plan for this year’s grand prix alongside stakeholders, government bodies and the Formula One community.
Race organisers have taken measures to reduce the impact of the haze for the race weekend.
They have put in place a number of measures, including public information at the circuit.-/ TISG