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Safe-distancing ambassadors ‘not typically deployed’ to converted KTVs, checks done by enforcement officers, auxiliary police: MSE, MHA

SINGAPORE — Safe-distancing ambassadors, who do not have enforcement powers, are "not typically deployed" to check on karaoke television (KTV) lounges and other nightspots that have temporarily been converted into eateries, the authorities said.

Safe-distancing ambassadors, who do not have enforcement powers, are not typically deployed to check on karaoke lounges and other nightspots that have temporarily been converted into eateries.

Safe-distancing ambassadors, who do not have enforcement powers, are not typically deployed to check on karaoke lounges and other nightspots that have temporarily been converted into eateries.

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  • Enforcement and auxiliary police officers, instead of safe-distancing ambassadors, inspect converted nightspots, authorities said
  • This is done because there could be egregious breaches at such nightlife outlets that call for enforcement action 
  • A safe-distancing ambassador was told that they were not deployed to patrol KTV areas for “safety reasons”
  • The Government said it would press forward with enforcement

 

SINGAPORE — Safe-distancing ambassadors, who do not have enforcement powers, are "not typically deployed" to check on karaoke television (KTV) lounges and other nightspots that have temporarily been converted into eateries, the authorities said. 

Instead, enforcement and auxiliary police officers, who are authorised to impose the rules, carry out these inspections, the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE) and Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said in a joint reply to TODAY’s queries on Friday (July 30).

A coronavirus outbreak at KTV lounges and clubs — now Singapore’s second-largest active cluster with 251 cases — had raised questions over whether safe-distancing ambassadors had carried out checks on these outlets, on top of efforts by the police.

Safe-distancing ambassadors do enter shops, including eateries, to advise the public to take precautions against Covid-19.

But the nature of converted nightspots is such that there could be egregious breaches of Covid-19 rules that require enforcement action, TODAY understands. 

Hence the decision to deploy enforcement and auxiliary police officers, instead of safe-distancing ambassadors, to such places.

Should safe-distancing ambassadors be dispatched to patrol areas where converted KTV clubs are located, they would be accompanied by enforcement or auxiliary police officers.

‘PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER ONE’

A safe-distancing ambassador interviewed by TODAY this week recounted his trepidation when he was once given the task of reminding patrons and staff members at some bars and pubs to follow the rules.

Some people were clearly drunk.

“We had to go in (groups of) four,” said the ambassador, who declined to be named because he was not authorised to speak to the media. 

“Everyone was staring at us and, suddenly, you become public enemy number one.”

The ambassador, who has been in the role for a year, said that he was told safe-distancing ambassadors do not check on converted KTV clubs for “safety reasons”.

Over three days this past week, TODAY did not observe any enforcement officers or auxiliary police officers carrying out checks in public areas, including near KTV hot spots such as Golden Mile Complex and Parklane mall. 

Since April last year, about 3,000 safe-distancing ambassadors and enforcement officers from 17 government agencies have been deployed daily to remind the public and premise owners to comply with infection control measures.

Said MSE and MHA: “The number of safe-distancing ambassadors and enforcement officers deployed will vary based on the crowd level and ground situation of various areas.”

Another safe-distancing ambassador Michael Leong Ronie, 50, said that he had not been deployed to patrol those areas, but his co-workers have told him that it was tough to get patrons of the converted nightclubs to abide by coronavirus precautions.

The patrons would often challenge the authority of the ambassadors, Mr Leong was told. 

“The moment we walk out… that’s it (customers would stop following the rules),” he recalled his friends saying.

Thirteen other safe-distancing ambassadors approached by TODAY declined to comment.

The authorities had ordered all converted nightlife outlets to suspend their operations for two weeks from July 16 until Friday to stem the spread of Covid-19 after the KTV cluster surfaced.

They must now meet more stringent infection controls and pass inspections before reopening. 

EGREGIOUS BREACHES

Serious breaches on the part of converted nightspots are not a recent occurrence, with the authorities warning in May about “flagrant” infringements that posed much higher public health risks. 

These included serving alcohol after 10.30pm, allowing large groups of more than 50 people to gather as well as engaging hostesses who mingled with different groups of patrons. 

Many of these offences were committed by recalcitrant nightclub operators that flouted the rules more than once.

More recently, seven operators had their licences revoked permanently and were ordered to stop operations.

This was after they were found to have flouted the rules, including allowing hostessing as well as failing to minimise interactions between staff members and customers.

The KTV cluster emerged on July 12 with three cases linked to it. The Ministry of Health said then that it was investigating cases of Covid-19 among social hostesses who frequented these venues.

It prompted a police crackdown that ended with the arrest of dozens of women of various nationalities. Ten of them were deported after they were found to have worked as social hostesses at these converted nightclubs.

ENFORCEMENT EFFORTS TO CONTINUE

In a commentary last week, an editor with financial news agency Bloomberg had criticised Singapore’s authorities for failing to prevent the KTV cluster from emerging.

“Nightclubs that transitioned to restaurants should have been flooded with oversight from the start,” wrote Ms Rachel Rosenthal.

“Instead, social-distancing ambassadors busied themselves at United Square and Tanglin Mall, ensuring toddlers and teenagers didn’t bump into each other on the way to violin class or math tutoring.”

On Friday, MSE and MHA emphasised again that besides checks by auxiliary police and enforcement officers, the police have been regularly enforcing the rules at converted nightlife businesses.

Between October last year and July 10, the police carried out 202 operations against public entertainment outlets.

These included nightspots that have been converted into eateries and unlicensed public entertainment outlets operating in places such as industrial estates, office units and shophouses. 

“Agencies, including the police, will continue with enforcement efforts on pivoted nightlife establishments to ensure that safe-management measures are strictly adhered to,” the ministries said.

Related topics

KTV KTV cluster MSE MHA safe distancing ambassador Covid-19 coronavirus

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