Singapore—As a social distancing measure to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus that has infected around 180,000 people around the world and claimed over 7,000 lives, the country’s National Environment Agency (NEA) has applied strips of red and blue tape on seats in public dining areas in order to enforce that diners eat at the recommended distance.
But some people who have gone to eat at hawker centers have gotten confused by the tape markings, TODAY says.
Last Friday (Mar 13), the NEA started putting tape at seats in Sembawang Hills Food Centre, Pasir Ris Central Food Centre, and Tanglin Halt Market and Food Centre to distinguish the seats which should be used from those which should not.
But perhaps the lack of a widespread announcement contributed to individuals not knowing why they were there in the first place.
Some individuals thought the tape meant that the seats were somehow damaged.
The TODAY report quotes 73-year-old Ng Geok Hua as saying, “Initially, when I saw the red tapes, I thought the seats were spoilt. It was later that I understood this was for social distancing, which I think is good.”
Madam Ng often has meals at Sembawang Hills Food Centre.
At Pasir Ris Hawker Centre, even if signs explaining the purpose of the taped seats were posted on pillars, some diners remained clueless, leading some to say they should be placed on the tables themselves.
Lily Tan said, “I didn’t know about this, the notice is not obvious. They should be placed on the table.”
The NEA initiated making seats in dining areas after an advisory from the Ministry of Health was released, telling restaurants to minimize close contact among their patrons.
But some food stall owners have expressed the concern that disallowing some seats to be occupied to provide for social distancing would not leave enough room for the big crowds that come in at lunchtime, and that seat markings may make no difference to the groups of people who come in.
The NEA told TODAY that marking seats in the first few hawker centers is a preliminary exercise.
“NEA will evaluate the effectiveness of this trial and monitor feedback before deciding if seats at more hawker centres would also be marked out. While our hawker centres can be crowded at peak hours, they are not air-conditioned or enclosed, and are generally well ventilated or of an open dining environment.”
People commenting however, expressed a greater concern over how to implement social distancing inside public transport such as the MRT and buses.
Some netizens did not take too keenly to the idea of tape to mark designated seating for social distancing, saying hawker centers are crowded enough as it is.
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