SINGAPORE, Sept 9 — From today onwards, the authorities will no longer issue warnings to food-and-beverage (F&B) establishments that flout any safe management regulations. Instead, enforcement action will be taken against them, even for first-time offenders.
This is to tackle those who persistently break the rules and depending on the severity of the offence, these enforcement actions will include fines or the closure of the premises.
Lawrence Wong, the co-chair of the governmental task force handling the Covid-19 pandemic, said during a news conference: “I think enough time has transpired for the entire F&B industry, as well as for diners, to understand what the rules are and to comply with them.”
The Ministry of Health (MOH) said in a press release on Wednesday that if there are multiple breaches of safe management measures in any one place, it will require the premises to be closed and will also raise the case to the Attorney-General’s Chambers for possible prosecution.
The ministry said that since the start of the second phase of the reopening of Singapore’s economy after the stay-home curbs, around 20 F&B establishments have been suspended for breaching Covid-19 regulations.
These breaches include the sale and consumption of alcohol after 10.30pm, individuals not wearing masks as required, gathering in groups of more than five, seating customers less than 1m apart, the playing of loud music and the intermingling of groups.
The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said in a separate statement on Wednesday (Sept 9) that it took action against seven errant F&B outlets at Boat Quay, Clarke Quay, China Square and Tanjong Pagar from Sept 4 to 6 after they were found to have infringed safe distancing rules.
These include “knowingly” accepting reservations for more than five persons and allowing the intermingling of groups of people across tables.
Among the seven outlets that were issued with fines, two — the Le Noir and Coyote Ugly restaurants in Clarke Quay — were ordered to stop dine-in activities from Sept 10 to 19.
Last Sunday, trade agency Enterprise Singapore fined five establishments for failing to ensure the minimum 1m safe distance between groups of diners.
The Singapore Tourism Board ordered a restaurant to stop operations for violating safe management rulings last Saturday and the Singapore Food Agency issued fines and suspended the operations of a bar and two restaurants for the same reason last week.
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Wong, who is also Education Minister, said that people enjoy dining out and it is a popular activity, but it is one that carries “quite a bit of risk” because diners are gathered in large groups in an enclosed space without their masks and have prolonged exposure to one another.
“That’s why we have put in place a whole series of safe management measures in F&B outlets to ensure the safety of everyone.”
For the most part, F&B operators and diners have been complying with these measures, he noted.
“But there are still a few breaches that we pick up, literally on a daily basis, and they typically happen at the popular night spots. Not always, but very often (it is) at some of these popular areas.”
Wong said that usually, the intermingling of groups happens in a private room because customers think that “no one is watching”, and therefore they book a room so that they can have their own private gathering.
“It’s not fair for the majority of operators who are complying with the rules, and yet these few are taking their chances and breaching the rules,” he said.
“So, from henceforth, the enforcement agencies will be stepping up their checks and once they see an offence, be it by an individual or by an F&B operator, they will take action. Even if it is a first-time offender.” — TODAY