Food and beverage (F&B) outlets and diners who breach safe management measures will now be penalised even for the first offence instead of just receiving a warning, Education Minister Lawrence Wong announced yesterday.
This move will kick in with immediate effect, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said in a statement, given that there has been sufficient time for F&B outlets and their customers to adjust to the rules.
An MOH spokesman added that the ministry remains "very concerned" about such breaches.
"Dining out is an activity that involves considerable risks because people are gathered together in an enclosed space, without their masks on, and for a prolonged duration," he said in a statement.
Since the start of phase two of Singapore's reopening on June 19, around 20 F&B establishments have been suspended, added MOH.
Speaking at a multi-ministry task force press conference yesterday, Mr Wong said enforcement agencies will also step up spot checks and enforcement action. "Most people are complying with these measures, but there are still a few breaches that we pick up on a daily basis, and they typically happen at the popular nightspots," he said.
For instance, there are people who drink after 10.30pm and attempt to disguise their alcohol, who do not wear masks, or who gather in groups of more than five.
"The operators who are doing this are causing unnecessary risk to their diners and I think it's also 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," added Mr Wong, who co-chairs the task force.
Establishments that breach the rules will be fined or made to close, depending on the severity of the offence. For instance, if multiple breaches of safe management measures are found in any one place, the authorities will require the premises to close and will also surface the case to the Attorney-General's Chambers for possible prosecution, MOH said.
Mr Wong said that while the authorities understand some fatigue has crept in over Covid-19 rules, it is important to comply with the existing measures as this will determine whether Singapore can continue to progressively resume activities.
Common breaches at eateries
•Diners not wearing masks when they have finished their food.
•Gatherings of more than five.
•Operators knowingly accepting reservations for more than five people.
•People across multiple tables intermingling with one another, especially in private rooms.
•Sale and consumption of alcohol after 10.30pm, with some using various means to disguise their alcohol.
•Seating customers less than 1m apart.
•Playing of loud music.
"If we are not even able to keep to the existing measures, then why even talk about further liberalisations or easing, which will cause more problems down the road? So we really seek everyone's cooperation," he said.
Yesterday, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said seven F&B outlets in popular nightspots were fined $1,000 each for failing to comply with safe distancing rules over the past weekend.
Two bars out of these seven that were fined - Le Noir and Coyote Ugly in Clarke Quay - will also be suspended from today to Sept 19, while fines will also be issued to 17 individuals found breaching the five-person rule at various other F&B outlets, the URA added. More individuals are under investigation.
Common examples of breaches that were found at the seven outlets last Friday to Sunday include having more than five people in a group, and failing to ensure a minimum distance of 1m between groups. Customers across groups were seen intermingling and some operators were also found to have knowingly accepted reservations for more than five people, said the URA.
The outlets that were fined are located in Boat Quay, Clarke Quay, China Square and Tanjong Pagar.