Beleaguered businesses rejoice as Singapore moves into phase two of reopening

·Lifestyle Editor
·3-min read
A social distancing sign on the floor at IKEA Singapore's Tampines store ahead of relaxing of lockdown rules on 19 June, 2020.
A social distancing sign on the floor at IKEA Singapore's Tampines store ahead of relaxing of lockdown rules on 19 June, 2020.

Shops and eateries in Singapore are gearing up to welcome street customers again after lockdown rules were relaxed as businesses reeled from more than two months of restrictions.

On Friday (19 June), the country will transition into phase two of its reopening, allowing diners to eat out at food establishments again in groups of up to five, and reopening sectors of the economy after businesses considered non-essential were ordered to close.

Numerous restaurants across the city known as a food paradise have closed due to poor business, and street food hawkers are struggling to survive.

Lau Ahong, 50, who sells noodles at a hawker centre in Yishun, said business had halved ever since customers were restricted to takeaways. She was very happy when the government announced that people could eat outdoors again. “I’ve been preparing for customers to return tomorrow. I’ve packed more chilli and cleaned the bowls and cutlery.”

Not all eateries are reopening immediately on Friday as some were caught by surprise by the government’s announcement this Monday. The Kilo restaurant group said, “As much as we cherish the flood of reservation requests, we have to emphasise that we’re not opening our restaurants this weekend for dine-in. Even though the government has given the green light for us to operate again, we want to take things easy for the safety of everyone.”

Other sectors of the economy, including retail, travel and transport, were also hit hard by the pandemic.

Kidzania, a popular children’s theme park on Sentosa island that employed more than 100 workers, said on Wednesday that it was closing after four years of operation.

Last month, travel start-up Airbnb laid off 38 workers in Singapore, part of a cut of 1,900 employees in the company globally.

Ride-hailing company Grab, headquartered in Singapore, also announced on Tuesday that it would cut 360 employees from its regional workforce in order to reduce costs amid the economic downturn. It did not say how many of the layoffs came from Singapore.

The Japanese chain of Muji stores said on Wednesday that it was closing one of its 11 outlets at Marina Square mall.

Businesses that have been able to withstand the downturn so far are raring to receive customers again.

Furniture retailer IKEA said its two stores would reopen on Friday with social distancing and crowd control measures. Restaurants within its premises would remain closed, but would reopen within the next two weeks.

Electronics store Gain City said it had installed full-body sterilising systems at its entrance that would disinfect customers and staff by spraying alkaline water on them. It had also installed ultraviolet light strips on air-conditioning units to sterilise circulated air.

Shops selling bubble tea, a beloved local beverage, will reopen across the island on Friday to welcome thirsty customers. Bubble tea chain Gong Cha said on its Facebook page, “We can’t wait to be back at our stores tomorrow serving customers again. Let us work together for a safe transition into Phase 2!”

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