Unlike previous restrictions introduced, there is a sense that the latest measures, taking effect from 22 July to 18 August 2021, caught everyone including the authorities by surprise.
In this article, we look at some of the hardest-hit sectors or groups of people that will be impacted by the latest round of measures.
#1 F&B Businesses
By now, F&B businesses in Singapore should already be used to dealing with the constant changing of regulations arising from the pandemic.
Even then, Phase 2 (Heightened Alert, Version 2.0), could not have come in a worse way for them.
After what appears to be a statement assuring the F&B sector that “there will not be any reversal” in the regulation allowing for dine-in for groups of up to 5, despite the potentially huge KTV cluster, the government had no choice, but to (wisely in our opinion) enforce the no dine-in rule for a period of close to one month from 22 July to 18 August 2021.
Within one week, the F&B sector went from being assured that groups of 5 will be allowed, to not being opened for dine-in again.
In other words, save for a short period of about four weeks (21 June to 21 July, and even then, they were allowed to accept dine-in for up to 2 pax mostly), F&B businesses would have gone almost three months without being able to accept dine-in. This started on 16 May 2021 and will last till 18 August 2021, for now.
To make matters worse, the F&B sector has been dealt with multiple false starts. For example, even when the latest announcement was made, it was indicated that groups of up to 5 would be allowed if everyone was vaccinated. Just one day after this measure kicked in (on 19 July 2021), a new announcement that supersedes the original announcement was made (on 20 July 2021), stating that no dine-in would be allowed, regardless of vaccination status.
#2 Gyms & Fitness Studios
If F&B businesses were considered the hardest hit, then gyms and fitness studios are likely to be a close second.
Since 8 May 2021, gyms and fitness studios have had to deal with closures and restrictions to their operations with little respite. And now, these restrictions are likely to last at least till 18 August, or even later. This is a period of more than 3 months, with no guarantee that things will be better in August.
Unlike F&B businesses where one can still try to leverage on delivery to provide their service, working out online isn’t exactly easy. And with little news thus far on rental rebates, it should not be a surprise if we see many smaller gyms or fitness studios unable to last till August 2021.
#3 Retail Outlets
With social gathering limitation at 2 pax until 18 August, some retail outlets could be worse off than their F&B counterparts. With the government encouraging people to stay at home as much as possible and only to head out for essential reasons, it’s hard to imagine much leisure shopping being done over the next few weeks.
In fact, it may even be better for many outlets to have a circuit-breaker-like period and to receive the Job Support Scheme (JSS) and/or rental support, than to continue their operations.
#4 Self-Employed Drivers
With people urged to stay at home, self-employed drivers such as taxi drivers and private-hire drivers are now faced with the double whammy of not only needing to be at harm’s way by continuing to be at the frontline and serving people who need transport, but also dealing with reduced demand for transport.
For those who need to continue paying rent for their private-hire vehicles, the option of stopping work during this period may not even be viable.
#5 Pivoted Night Life Businesses (That Were Operating Legally)
With 14 days in July, DollarsAndSense Business wrote two articles about Singapore’s nightlife sector. The first article – Nightlife Businesses: The Forgotten Sector In Singapore, was one that was somewhat sympathetic to the industry. The second article – How One Sector – Singapore’s Nightlife – Can Undo Much Progress In Containing COVID-19, much less so.
The government itself also released a statement, clarifying that among the 400 former nightlife establishments that have pivoted to other approved uses, only 18 have received ESG’s pivot support package to pivot to F&B operations. Of these 18 establishments, 10 were bars and pubs, six were nightclubs and discos and two were karaoke establishments. None of the establishments belonging to the KTV COVID-19 cluster received a pivot grant.
Regardless of whether or not they were complying with the regulatory requirements, all of these establishments have to suspend operations for a period of at least two weeks.
On top of that, the industry is now suffering from a public backlash. Understandably frustrated Singaporeans are now pointing to the industry as the source of the current community cases, and this is likely to remain on both the authorities and people’s minds at least for the foreseeable near future. The nightlife industry is once again remembered, but for the wrong reasons.