Canceled appointments, declining sales: Novena-area businesses worry about TTSH COVID-19 cluster

    Singapore: Many businesses in the Novena region said sales have declined in recent days as some customers choose to avoid malls close to Tan Talk Seng Hospital (TTSH) where Singapore’s largest active COVID-19 cluster emerged from.

    As of Monday (May 3), 35 cases are related to the cluster. A nurse working in Ward 9D first tested positive on 27 April. Many hospital staff, patients and visitors have since been confirmed to be coronavirus.

    Four wards of the hospital have been closed.

    READ: 8 more COVID-19 infections associated with TTSH cluster in 10 new community cases in Singapore

    READ: TTSH cluster: 88-year-old woman dies from COVID-19 complications

    When CNA visited Velocity @ Novena Square at 1 pm on Monday afternoon, the mall’s food court was nearly 70 percent full.

    Although it was relatively busy on the first floor where food and beverage outlets are located, it was absolutely quiet on the higher floors of the mall.

    Businessman CNA spoke at the mall, saying he has been seeing fewer customers since the cluster’s news came.

    The Novena outlet of optical shop Better Vision saw nearly 60 percent fewer customers in Labor Day weekend than the previous weekend.

    “There are absolutely no customers in the mall, no walk-ins,” said marketing manager Naparat Pentthysong.

    Mr Wynn Lee, owner of hair salon The Vogue, said that the business “is not really so” since the cluster’s news.

    On Monday, four out of 10 scheduled customers called for cancellation of their appointments, they told CNA. Some cited concerns as their reason for canceling the TTSH cluster.

    Although he is “concerned”, Mr Lee said there is nothing he can do about the situation.

    He is not yet planning to tighten measures beyond SafeAntry check-in, as the government has not announced any new measures.

    READ: Being ‘obsessed’ with wearing masks properly: Experts urge to comply as COVID-19 cases escalate

    Mr. Joe Chen, the owner of Freida, which sells women’s clothing, bags and accessories, said he had received calls from customers for a long time to check if things were alright.

    However, not much has changed in terms of footfalls.

    “Of course I was worried, the first thing about the business because we are near Tan Talk Seng (hospital),” said Mr. Chen, who said that the business first tried to work online without much success.

    “End of day … We have to live with this, we have no choice, we have to open up.”

    The manager of Yaoi’s United Square outlet, who only gave his name as Loong, said the Japanese restaurant saw a 50 percent drop in business on Saturday, and a 15 percent drop on Sunday. But it could be due to the Labor Day holiday, he said.

    He said, “I am quite worried.” “If (it) dropped again the weekend, (I) am worried for the sale as well.”

    According to Mr. Loong, the restaurant implemented strict security measures in response to the cluster. Only groups of six or fewer customers are allowed to visit the restaurant, unless they are a family unit. In addition, only one representative can be in the queue for a seat in the restaurant.

    Also concerned is the ice-cream parlor Udders, which has an outlet outside United Square.

    File photo of united square

    A file photo of United Square. (Photo: Matthew Mohan)

    Director Wong Pek Lin said he did not see the “very significant” difference, as it was still recent. He said other factors could affect sales, such as rain or school holidays.

    Schools are closed on Mondays for Labor Day holiday.

    However, he is “mildly concerned” that TTSH may affect the cluster business, as he is not sure how the situation will develop. If the number of cases increases further, it will affect trade across Singapore.

    Udders already have “very strict (safe distancing) measures” at their outlets, which Ms. Wong said are routine inspections, taking temperatures, safeAndry check-ins and “strictly enforced” among groups of customers.

    READ: Being ‘obsessed’ with wearing masks properly: Experts urge to comply as COVID-19 cases escalate

    As such, further measures are “not necessary” at this point, she said.

    In response to CNA’s queries, the UOL group, which operates both Velocity @ Novena Square and United Square, said it deployed “additional resources” in its malls to implement measures of social balance and lower capacity limits Have done.

    A UOL spokesperson said, “UOL sent a reminder to all our tenants, retail and office last Friday to monitor their health and take care of safety measures.

    “We have also increased the frequency of our cleaning and have ensured that hand sanators are available at entrances, counters and elevators.”

    The spokesperson noted that UOL would be vigilant to protect the health and safety of shopkeepers and visitors.

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