On Thursday, Mar. 26, the government introduced strict penalties for those who do not sit or queue one meter apart in public places.
These penalties are listed in the Infectious Diseases (Measures to Prevent Spread of COVID-19) Regulations 2020, which are published on the government’s e-gazette.
Most hawker centres and coffeeshops have had some of their seats demarcated as seats that should not be used, with coloured tape markings. Diners who intentionally sit on such seats are liable to the new penalties, which can be as harsh as a fine not exceeding $10,000, imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or both, under the new regulations.
This has led to some doubt about whether related diners can sit together, as the new regulations do not address this particular question.
It would also be impossible for a couple to find two adjacent seats without coloured tape, as one Facebook user highlighted:Dining venues had previously been advised to set their seats at least one metre apart from one another on Friday, Mar. 13, with the same advice being restated on Mar. 24 as part of tighter measures announced by the Ministry of Health (MOH).
Related diners can sit at the same table
Even with the new regulations, related diners can sit at the same table when dining out.
They can even sit at tables where some seats are marked as seats which should not be used, according to an Enterprise SG media release, updated on Mar. 26 after the new regulations were published.
The media release states that "Related diners (e.g. family members, couples) can be seated together at one table".
It also states that F&B establishments with fixed seating must mark out seats which should not be used, and ensure that unrelated diners are seated apart from one another.
Related diners cannot be in groups of more than 10
However, groups of diners have to be "limited to 10 persons or fewer".
This is in line with MOH's advice to avoid gatherings of over 10 people, even at private events.
Here's the full text of the section on "Table and seating management" from Enterprise SG's media release:
5. Table and seating management:
a. Tables and seats for different groups of diners must be at least one metre apart. Related diners (e.g. family members, couples) can be seated together.
b. Groups of diners must be limited to 10 persons or fewer. F&B establishments must disperse congregations of more than 10 persons by splitting the group into separate tables and ensuring a distance of at least one metre between tables.
c. F&B establishments with fixed seating must mark out seats which should not be used. They must ensure that unrelated diners are seated at least one meter apart from one another.
A similar notice, also dated Mar. 26, can be found on the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) website as well.
Top image by Nigel Chua