Skip to main content



Covid-19: No more queues at popular wet markets as strict enforcement of staggered entry rules begin

SINGAPORE — For the first time in weeks, there was no queue on Friday (April 24) morning to enter Geylang Serai Market, or the three other popular wet markets where the right of entry now depends on the last digit of one's National Registration Identity Card (NRIC) number.

An officer checks the National Registration Identity Card of a shopper before allowing her to enter Geylang Serai Market on Friday (April 24).

An officer checks the National Registration Identity Card of a shopper before allowing her to enter Geylang Serai Market on Friday (April 24).

Follow us on Instagram and Tiktok, and join our Telegram channel for the latest updates.

SINGAPORE — For the first time in weeks, there was no queue on Friday (April 24) morning to enter Geylang Serai Market, or the three other popular wet markets where the right of entry now depends on the last digit of one's National Registration Identity Card (NRIC) number.

Although the rule took effect on Wednesday, it was strictly enforced only on Friday following a two-day grace period. Under the rule, people whose NRIC or Foreign Identification Number (Fin) ends in an even digit (0, 2, 4, 6 or 8) may visit these markets only on even dates of the month. Those with odd numbers as their last digit (1, 3, 5, 7 or 9) may do so on odd dates of the month.

Apart from Geylang Serai Market, the other affected markets are at Block 104 and 105 Yishun Ring Road (also known as Chong Pang Market), Block 20 and 21 Marsiling Lane, and Block 505 Jurong West Street 52.

In a statement on Friday evening, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said that slightly more than 400 patrons were turned away from the markets in the morning for failing to comply with the entry rule. This formed about 5 per cent of the crowd visiting the markets between 7am and 10am, the agency said.

Among the four popular markets, the rejection rate ranged from 1 per cent of patrons at Chong Pang Market to 10 per cent at the Jurong West market. 

NEA said that across all four markets, queues were shorter on Friday morning than in the past two days, with the lines stretching to about 20 people at their longest.

When TODAY visited these markets on Wednesday and Thursday, crowds were already visibly thinner, but there were still queues at their entrances as many shoppers showed up unaware of the new rules. Nonetheless, they were still let in.

On Friday, however, a handful of shoppers were turned away at each of the four markets. They said that they had come because they misunderstood the rule or were unaware of it. 

Some were also upset that the rule offered no flexibility for them even though they worked in essential services and had rare days off.


Most shoppers, however, appeared familiar with the new rule and had their identification cards ready to be checked by officials. 

One of them was Ms Juliah Haji Ramlee, 62, who was at Chong Pang Market.

The housewife said that she had to wait for only five minutes to enter the market, compared with 45 minutes last Wednesday.

“I came to the market with my IC prepared. These rules are there for us to be safe,” said Ms Juliah, who added that she was able to complete her grocery shopping within 10 minutes.

On Thursday, NEA said that crowds across the four markets had already thinned out by 30 to 50 per cent in the last two days, following the Government's announcement of the new rule.

Adherence to the new rule — even though it had yet to be enforced — had improved from an average of 60 to 70 per cent on Wednesday to 80 to 85 per cent on Thursday, it added.


While most patrons were familiar with the new rule, a handful of people appeared confused or were simply unaware.

A common misconception among some was that the odd dates referred to the odd days of the week, such as Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

One such shopper was operational technician M Rosli. The 57-year-old said that since Friday was the fifth day of the week, he thought that odd-numbered NRICs such as his were allowed in.

Despite the confusion, Mr Rosli said that the authorities at the market at Block 20 and 21 Marsiling Lane allowed him to enter.

“I told them (the reason for the mix-up) and they said ‘Okay sir, we understand, you’re not the first one to make that mistake’, and they let me go in.”

However, others were less lucky.

Ms Jane Tan, 64, who travelled 20 minutes by bus from her home in Jurong West to the market at Block 505 Jurong West, was forced to make the return journey empty-handed after being turned away.

“I thought odd days meant to come on days 1, 3, 5, 7 (Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday) of the week, but I found out it is to follow the odd dates of the month,” said the housewife. “I don’t think everyone understands this.”

Agreeing, 66-year-old Ms Poh Lay Choo, who was also turned away for the same misunderstanding, said that more could be done to make the rule clear to the public.

“(The authorities) have to spread the word better to let us know if it’s the date (of the month) or day (of the week)... It wasn’t made clear to me.”


Meanwhile, Madam Zaiton Abdranah was unaware about the new rule.

The 73-year-old who lives alone and travelled from Redhill was denied entry at Geylang Serai Market as her NRIC number ends with an odd digit.

“I just want to buy meat!” she said angrily after being rejected. “Now they tell me to come tomorrow. I don’t want to come anymore!”

One shopper who was turned away tried to buy her groceries over the barriers.

She managed to engage a vegetable seller, until two policemen walked over.

Disgruntled, the woman left in a taxi.


Among those who were turned away were essential workers who felt that the rule should be made more flexible for them as they rarely get days off and have little control over their work schedules.

Ms Hilda Ng, an administrative staff member at the Singapore General Hospital, said that Friday was her only day off this week.

The 49-year-old said she “almost wanted to cry” when she was turned away from the market at Jurong West, which she says has a wider range of seafood than the markets in her neighbourhood in Bukit Batok.

“Maybe (the authorities) should consider healthcare workers or those who work at hospitals (to be exempted from this system),” she said. “We need the extra support.”

In response to TODAY’s query on whether concessions would be made for essential workers or those with inflexible work schedules, NEA said that right now, special consideration is given only to patrons who need help, such as seniors or persons with disabilities.

“Like the rest of the population, essential workers can also opt to go to markets on the correct odd or even date, according to their National Registration Identification Card or Foreign Identification Number,” said NEA.

It added that it would monitor the situation and provide details if there are further updates to the rule.

With the weekend approaching, NEA advised patrons to visit the markets slightly later, as crowds usually ease from about 10am and fresh produce continues to be available till around noon.

"We further urge patrons to avoid visiting markets over the weekend and visit markets on a weekday instead," it added.

Related topics

NRIC wet market Covid-19 coronavirus circuit breaker

Read more of the latest in



Stay in the know. Anytime. Anywhere.

Subscribe to get daily news updates, insights and must reads delivered straight to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, I agree for my personal data to be used to send me TODAY newsletters, promotional offers and for research and analysis.