SINGAPORE: Government agencies have conducted daily checks on food and beverage outlets since October last year, with about 400 venues inspected in each enforcement operation, said the police and the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE) on Tuesday (Jul 20).
These places include nightlife businesses that pivoted to operating as F&B outlets since they were allowed to do so from October 2020.
The joint enforcement operations, involving the police and various agencies, were also conducted during all festive periods, said the police and MSE in a joint press release.
"To date, agencies have imposed around 100 closure orders on F&B outlets, including around 40 pivoted establishments, with around 10 repeat offenders," they added.
"The operators also face further enforcement action, including fines and prosecution in court."
Nightlife establishments that pivoted to operating as F&B have been in the spotlight after a spike in COVID-19 cases linked to KTV outlets, forming a large cluster of infections.
Since tighter penalties were put in place in May this year, authorities have permanently revoked the licences of three pivoted establishments, said police and MSE.
Four more could have their licences revoked, pending investigations.
"Breaches by pivoted nightlife establishments account for the vast majority of repeated egregious breaches," they added.
"SMM (safe management measures) breaches committed by this group of establishments are flagrant and carry much higher public health risks."
The police said they also conduct their own enforcement operations, with 540 checks done from Oct 1, 2020, to Jul 10, 2021.
During this period, a total of 142 people were arrested for various offences under laws such as the Public Entertainments Act, the Liquor Control Act and the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act.
IMPORTANCE OF INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY
The police and MSE stressed the importance of individual responsibility in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
"Enforcement against irresponsible behaviour is but one of the tools to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and we cannot be relying just on it, nor expect it to be able to fully ensure compliance. There is a limit to what enforcement can achieve," they said.
"Individual responsibility is more important and in fact, the most effective and sustainable means for us to overcome COVID-19. All of us have to play our part."
READ: 29 arrests made in islandwide police operation targeting 27 KTV venues; 10 women to be deported
Pubs, bars, nightclubs, discotheques and karaoke lounges have not been allowed to operate in their original form since March last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following feedback from nightlife operators that the process of undergoing a formal change of use to F&B would be too lengthy and costly, authorities rolled out a “streamlined process” in October last year to allow the operators to pivot to F&B operations quickly.
This would also allow the establishments to go back to their usual operations when the nightlife sector is able to reopen, as well as provide the outlets with some revenue in the meantime, said the police and MSE.
To date, more than 400 nightlife business operators have received the Singapore Food Agency's (SFA) food-shop or snack counter licence to temporarily switch to F&B operations.
“Many of these pivoted establishments have fully complied with the requirements. Others, disappointingly, have not been responsible,” said the authorities, adding that government agencies will continue to carry out enforcement action against errant outlets.
READ: Nightlife industry worried about business impact, stricter rules if KTV COVID-19 cluster continues to grow
The Ministry of Health (MOH) previously announced that all nightlife establishments that had pivoted to operating as F&B outlets will have to suspend business for two weeks from Jul 16 to Jul 30.
During the suspension period, all employees will be tested for COVID-19.
The outlets will only be allowed to resume operations after Jul 30 if they pass an inspection and receive approval from SFA.