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‘Customers scared’: Hawkers at food centre on Mountbatten Road suffer sales dip after visits by Covid-19 cases

SINGAPORE — With the hawker centre devoid of its usual lunchtime buzz, the usual long queues formed by regular customers outside their stall at Jalan Batu Food Centre near Mountbatten Road have disappeared completely in the last two days.

‘Customers scared’: Hawkers at food centre on Mountbatten Road suffer sales dip after visits by Covid-19 cases

The fairly deserted scene at Jalan Batu Food Centre near Mountatten Road at lunchtime on Aug 28, 2020.

  • Jalan Batu Food Centre near Mountbatten Road is much quieter after news that a person or persons infected by Covid-19 had visited
  • Stallholders worry that the regular customers they rely on will stay away
  • Most of the stall owners said that they have been using the time to clean their stalls and disinfect places that are touched frequently

 

SINGAPORE — With the hawker centre devoid of its usual lunchtime buzz, the usual long queues formed by regular customers outside their stall at Jalan Batu Food Centre near Mountbatten Road have disappeared completely in the last two days.

Ms Fatana Fatah, 74, who runs Selera Rasa Muslim Food with her sister, Ms Rohani Fatah, 78, said on Friday (Aug 28) at about 2pm that they had served fewer than five customers since they opened the stall at dawn.

Usually they see more than 20 customers a day.

Ms Rohani Fatah, 78, (left) and her sister Ms Fatana Fatah, 74, who run the Selera Rasa Muslim Food stall at Jalan Batu Food Centre. Photo: Nuria Ling/ TODAY

“On an average day, we would have sold out all our food by now and started packing to go home,” Ms Fatana told TODAY.

She attributed the dip to the news that broke on Wednesday evening: The Ministry of Health had said in its daily update that the food centre was visited daily over 10 days by an infectious person or persons.

The visits were made between Aug 14 and 23, from 12pm to 1pm every day.

The ministry added that it would have already notified individuals who were identified as close contacts of the confirmed cases.

While MOH has reiterated that there is no need to avoid places where confirmed cases of Covid-19 have visited, stall owners at Jalan Batu Food Centre believe that the news may have caused many of their regular customers to stay away.

The scene at lunchtime on Aug 28, 2020 at Jalan Batu Food Centre near Mountbatten Road. Photo: Nuria Ling/TODAY

Ms Siew Choo Kam, owner of Old Place Fresh Prawn Noodle said that since the food centre is not located in a central area or near a main street, many stall owners depend on their regular customers for sales.

The 65-year-old added: “Even my regular customers did not turn up this morning. I'm sure they are all scared after reading the news.”

Agreeing, Mr Boo Hua Kee, 55, owner of Hua Kee Hougang Famous Wanton Noodle, said that it did not surprise him because his customers, who are mostly seniors, might be afraid of taking the risk.

Mr Boo made the 2019 Michelin Singapore guide of the world’s best eateries with a score of one Michelin plate. But he said that even this accolade might not help his business turn around this time, adding that sales have deteriorated by 30 per cent in the last two days.

Business had started to pick up after Singapore went into Phase Two of reopening the economy, but the stall owners are disheartened over whether they can survive this latest setback.

Ms Sapiah Matnawi, 74, owner of Wak Marmi Muslim Food, saw her first customer only at lunchtime.

“If this quiet period goes on, we will all be in trouble,” she said.

Customers interviewed by TODAY seemed lukewarm about dining at the food centre. While the majority of the younger customers were undeterred by the news, the older ones were more wary.

Student Ravindran Singh, 21, said: “I'm sure the authorities will take necessary actions to make sure the food centre is safe, or else, they would have closed the entire place.”

In comparison, private-hire van driver Ong Bee Kaw, 63, said that he packed his lunch to eat at home instead.

“You never know who might be infected… I'm old already so I don't want to take the risk,” he added.

MAKING THE EFFORT TO DISINFECT

Most of the stall owners said that they have been using the time to clean their stalls and disinfect places that are touched frequently.

Ms Fatana said: “The disinfection of the place doesn’t ease my concerns. I’m more worried that people don’t know that the place has been disinfected and would avoid it completely.”

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has guidelines on cleaning and disinfection of areas exposed to confirmed cases of Covid-19, and they state that operators of these areas should, where possible, clean and sanitise all commonly touched surfaces.

They should also disinfect the floor of the premises as well as air and ventilate the premises, NEA said.

Mr Lim Biow Chuan, Member of Parliament for Mountbatten Single Member Constituency took to Facebook on Friday to give an update of cleaning works done on the common areas and high touch points at the Jalan Batu Food Centre.

In a post earlier on Thursday, Mr Lim said that the town council cleaners have been asked to step up the cleaning of the food centre.

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Mountbatten food centre hawker Covid-19 coronavirus

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