SINGAPORE: Home-based food businesses will be allowed to resume operations from May 12, as part of the Government's efforts to gradually ease "circuit breaker" measures.
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 the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) on Saturday (May 2).
Payment must be 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 transmission," said the ministry.
Home-based private dining services are still not allowed.
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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 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 May 2.
Amid questions over why contactless deliveries were not allowed, local actress-influencer Ateeqah Mazlan also brought the issue to the fore after sharing a Facebook video of her interactions with the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Housing and Development Board, clarifying the regulations.
In a Facebook post on Apr 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”, Mr 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.
READ: 'Minor adjustments' to circuit breaker measures from May 5, acupuncture among services to be allowed
EASING RESTRICTIONS BEFORE HARI RAYA
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 Apr 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 restrictions ease.
She noted that home-based food businesses are an important source of income for some.
"HBB (home-based businesses) are predominantly run by women, usually with caregiving responsibilities and is an important source of income for them," Mdm Halimah wrote on Facebook.
"Although they bake throughout the year, it is during Ramadan 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."
READ: Home-based F&B businesses look beyond circuit breaker period, some rally to help those affected
"NOT OUT OF THE WOODS"
Following the Government's announcement that home-based food businesses will be allowed to resume operations from May 12, Mr Masagos cautioned that it is important that these businesses comply with the guidelines and safe management measures.
"These include avoiding any form of gathering in the home with people not from the same household. This is part of our collective vigilance against COVID-19, to prevent the formation of new clusters," he wrote on Facebook, noting that while Singapore is making good progress in the fight against the coronavirus, 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.