Singapore to allow home-based food businesses to operate

SINGAPORE (CNA) – Home-based food and beverage businesses will be allowed to resume operations from May 12, as Singapore gradually eases “circuit breaker” measures in the city state.

These businesses will, however, have to abide by safe management measures such as ensuring contactless delivery and collection of orders. Collection must be by appointment only, and the timing should be spread out, said Singaporean Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) yesterday.

Payment must made by cashless methods, and only members of the same household can work in the home-based food businesses.

“The measures are necessary to limit interaction between sellers, delivery personnel and customers. This will help minimise the risks of COVID-19 spread,” it said.

Home-based private dining services are still not allowed.

It has been nearly two weeks since Singapore tightened its circuit breaker measures, which included trimming the list of essential services.

Under the stricter rules, home-based food businesses were not allowed to operate, sparking concern among some home bakers who rely on such businesses for income, as well as those who had received an increase in orders ahead of Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations later this month.

An online petition on Change.org calling on the authorities to allow home-based food businesses to operate received more than 71,000 signatures as of yesterday.

Amid questions over why contactless deliveries were not allowed, Singaporean actress and social media influencer Ateeqah Mazlan also brought the issue to the fore after sharing a Facebook video of her interactions with Singapore Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Housing and De-velopment Board, clarifying the regulations.

In a Facebook post on April 27, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said it was alarming that some were trying to “incite” home-based business operators into making exceptions for them.

Describing their actions as “irresponsible”, Masagos said the operators of such businesses risked “being infected or becoming a cluster of COVID-19 cases” if they continued business as usual, especially with increasing orders leading up to Hari Raya. “Let us be patient and make necessary adjustments for the sake of our larger good,” he wrote at the time.

Some home bakers had hoped that restrictions would be eased before Hari Raya, especially after Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said during a press conference on April 27 that the rules could be relaxed if the number of COVID-19 cases within the local community came down.

President Halimah Yacob also said on May 1 that she was looking forward to buying cookies from home-based businesses once res-trictions ease.

She noted that home-based food businesses are an important source of income for some. “Home-based businesses are predominantly run by women, usually with caregiving responsibilities and is an important source of income for them,” Halimah wrote on Facebook.

“Although they bake throughout the year, it is during Ramadhan that they can earn the most to pay for their own Hari Raya expenses and keep some for other needs.

“During these very difficult times, the income that the HBB earn is even more critical as some have spouses who have lost their jobs or whose income has been slashed due to COVID-19.”

She added: “I look forward to your cookies. But please remember to comply with the circuit breaker rules which is meant to keep everyone safe from COVID-19.”

Following Singapore’s announ-cement that home-based food businesses will be allowed to resume operations from May 12, Masagos cautioned that it is important that these businesses comply with the guidelines and safe management measures put in place.

“These include avoiding any form of gathering in the home with people not from the same household,” he wrote on Facebook, noting that while Singapore is making good progress in the COVID-19 fight, it is “not out of the woods yet”.

“I understand that it has been a challenging time for many home-based food businesses. Thank you for understanding why it was necessary to tighten circuit breaker measures,” he added.