NEA urges coffee shops to remove smoking corners, launches programme to improve toilets

NEA urges coffee shops to remove smoking corners, launches programme to improve toilets

Hawker centre in Singapore
People, wearing face masks as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, queue to buy food at a hawker centre in Singapore on May 14, 2020. (Photo: AFP/Roslan RAHMAN)

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) is encouraging coffee shops to remove smoking corners as part of measures to "safeguard public health" as dining-in resumes on Friday (Jun 19) in Phase 2 of Singapore's reopening.

"To holistically safeguard public health, coffee shops will also be encouraged to rescind their smoking corners and implement cleanliness measures such as a tray return system, to keep tables clean and allow cleaners to focus on other cleaning tasks," said NEA in a media release on Wednesday. 

The agency added that it will introduce a programme that provides co-funding for toilet upgrading work, to improve the cleanliness of such facilities in coffee shops and hawker centres with ageing infrastructure. 

"The Toilet Improvement Programme for hawker centres will have upgrading works that focus on improving the design of the toilets and choice of sanitary fittings to make them easier to clean, as well as encouraging users to maintain toilet cleanliness," said NEA.

It will announce more details on the co-funding at a later date.

A study released in May by the Singapore Management University (SMU) showed that public toilet hygiene standards have fallen at Singapore's hawker centres and coffee shops.

Hawker centre toilets are "significantly dirtier" while coffee shop toilets have stayed "dirty and largely unchanged" compared to findings from a similar study conducted four years ago, said SMU in the study.

NEA said the Toilet Improvement Programme will also factor in maintenance issues. 

For instance, a licensed cleaning business may be engaged to perform periodic cleaning of coffee shop toilets, said NEA, and a controlled-access system may also be put in place for only coffee shop customers to use. 

“Clean and well-maintained public toilets are a key aspect of public health which NEA has been promoting, and this has gained an increased level of importance amid the COVID-19 situation,” said the agency.

READ: 'Marked regression' in public toilet cleanliness at coffee shops, hawker centres: SMU study

NEA added that public toilet owners and operators play an important role in maintaining high standards of cleanliness and ensuring that there are basic amenities such as liquid hand soap, toilet paper and litter bins.

Stricter penalties have been put in place by NEA and the Singapore Food Agency since Apr 1 for any lapses in cleanliness.

Operators of public toilets who do not keep them clean or fail to provide basic amenities such as soap or toilet paper face a fine of up to S$400 for the first offence.

Repeat offenders face a S$500 fine for subsequent lapses.

"Under the Environmental Public Health Act, for lapses such as insufficient basic amenities and unclean toilets in food and non-food establishments, the maximum fine on first conviction is between S$2,000 and S$5,000, depending on the nature of the lapse," NEA added.

READ: COVID-19: Phase 2 of reopening to start from Jun 19, social gatherings of up to five people allowed

DINERS ENCOURAGED TO BE SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE

Apart from efforts to improve cleanliness, NEA also reminded diners at coffee shops and hawker centres to be "socially responsible" and practise basic hygiene. 

These include returning trays and used crockery, as well as disposing of used tissues or wipes in rubbish bins. Diners should not leave used tissue paper on trays or on tables or seats, said NEA. 

"This will help keep dining tables clean for the next user, and minimise the risk of disease transmission to cleaners and other diners. These habits must be sustained as a way of life beyond COVID-19 to help reduce risks to public health," said the agency. 

Dos and Don’ts When Dining at Hawker Centres and Coffeeshops
Guidelines on dining etiquette at hawker centres and coffeeshops. (Image: National Environment Agency)
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Source: CNA/aa(ta/gs)

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