SINGAPORE: Condominiums are closing facilities to reduce gatherings of people amid the COVID-19 pandemic, although some residents are questioning the move given that in some locations a number of amenities remain open.
Some condominiums have suspended bookings in function rooms and barbeque pits, but have left their pools open with reminders on limiting gatherings to 10 people and maintaining a safe distance from one another.
Others have either closed all facilities without exception or decided to keep them open, albeit with restrictions.
On Monday (Mar 30), the Ministry of Health confirmed seven cases linked to a new cluster at Wilby Residences, a block of serviced apartments in Bukit Timah.
The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) told CNA that condo management corporations (MCST) "must do their part" to support the implementation of Government guidelines in reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission within their estates.
This includes suspending the use of common facilities to complement efforts on safe distancing, which the authority said is allowed under a by-law prohibiting residents and guests from committing acts "that will likely create a hazard" for other residents.
"Acts that will increase the risk of further local transmission of COVID-19 are clearly hazards to public health, and subsidiary proprietors and occupiers must refrain from such acts," it added.
"As a form of good practice, MCSTs should issue circulars to inform residents of decisions to close any common facilities."
Evergreen Park in Hougang has closed its gym, function room and BBQ pits until Apr 30, and has limited the reading room to two people "strictly for reading purposes and no mingling or playing games".
However, the swimming pool, tennis court and playground will remain open. "Residents are advised to observe the safe distancing measures and limit gatherings to 10 and fewer persons to avoid overcrowding," said a circular to residents on Mar 26.
READ: COVID-19 temporary measures: Gatherings outside of school and work limited to 10 people, entertainment venues to close
One resident, who only wanted to be known as Mr Lo, said he had booked a BBQ pit in February for a birthday celebration on Apr 9, and was recently "frustrated" to find out it had been cancelled.
"This gathering is something that I have been planning for some time, and I scaled down the gathering to meet the 10-person limit," the 25-year-old student said. "I feel that if residents follow the 10-person limit, gatherings should still be allowed."
In any case, Mr Lo said residents' maintenance fees should be adjusted as maintenance costs would have gone down due to the "absence of bookings".
BCA said MCSTs are required to set aside sufficient funds "to carry out their duties" despite the closure of common facilities during this period. These duties include the maintenance of facilities.
CHILDREN'S POOL CLOSED, ADULT POOL OPEN
At Casa Merah in Tanah Merah, management has closed the gym, children's playroom and children's pool until further notice, although barbecue pits, function rooms and the adult pool remain open.
"We advise all residents to practise good personal hygiene and be socially responsible to the people around us," said a circular to residents on Mar 21.
One resident, who only wanted to be known as Ms Lim, said the adult pool was crowded when she visited on Sunday, and that many in the pool were parents with young kids.
"I was quite shocked," said the 25-year-old who works in advertising, adding that the children's pool closure was "useless" if the adult pool was open.
READ: COVID-19: Rise in Singapore’s locally transmitted and unlinked cases, Health Minister stresses importance of safe distancing
As for Principal Garden in Alexandra, a member of staff at the management office told CNA that all facilities remain open, although it will ensure bookings at function rooms and BBQ pits are limited to 10 people or fewer.
One resident, who only gave her name as Ms Juliana, wrote to CNA to say she's seen residents inviting their friends over for BBQ, late-night drinks and gatherings by the pool.
She also sent a picture that showed eight people sitting close to each other in a mini pool. "Many people are ignoring the Singapore Government's pleas on social distancing," she added.
Q Bay Residences in Tampines has closed the function room, BBQ pavilions, gym and playground, although the swimming pool and multi-purpose court remain open.
"All the booking fees and deposits that have already been paid will be refunded to the affected residents," said a circular to residents on Mar 27.
"We also strongly advise residents to practise social distancing being 1m apart and gathering of no more than 10 people at one time."
Despite that, resident Irfan Suhairi, 26, said management has not blocked off the playground and BBQ pavilions, adding that he's still seeing children at the playground in the evening and small groups of people at the pavilions.
But the recent polytechnic graduate feels there is no need to seal them off as bookings have been suspended, with posters in lifts reminding residents not to gather closely and in large groups.
Nevertheless, he believes signs should be put up at these areas as a further reminder.
ALL FACILITIES CLOSED
Terrasse in Hougang decided not to take any chances after it confirmed on Mar 22 that a resident had contracted COVID-19.
"As a safeguard, the managing agent will take immediate steps to disinfect the common areas and surfaces" of the affected block, the management committee said in a circular. "We are also stepping up cleaning and disinfection of as part of this routine cleaning."
It also encouraged residents to monitor their temperature and seek immediate medical assistance if unwell, wash their hands after using lift buttons, handles and railings, as well as practise social distancing "as far as possible".
In a subsequent circular on Mar 26, the committee said it would close all common facilities until Apr 30. This includes the outdoor decks, reading room and entertainment room.
The committee said the move was in line with the Government's tighter measures to reduce the risk of local COVID-19 transmission.
"Residents who have paid for facilities could contact the management office for an endorsement to use the booking at a later date or obtain a refund," it added.
"Residents are requested not to gather around the common areas of the estate and to adhere to the safe distance recommendations of being 1m apart between persons."
BCA said it seeks the support of all condominium residents to work together with MCSTs in the fight against COVID-19.
"We understand that the measures may be disruptive and require getting used to," it added.
"However, we trust that the MCSTs have the residents’ safety and well-being at heart, and are doing this to protect ... their families and friends, and the general public."