Oral Reply by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, to Parliamentary Question on Hawker Centre Infrastructure
Mr Shawn Huang Wei Zhong: To ask the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment with the recent outbreaks at hawker centres and markets, whether NEA has any plans to further enhance their infrastructure such as the layout for queueing, seating, tray return, washing, waste disposal and cleaning procedures for common use areas.
1 Recognising the need to futureproof our hawker centres and markets to better deal with challenges such as COVID-19, the National Environment Agency (NEA) announced the development of the Hawker Centres Transformation Programme (HTP) in March this year. The programme will focus on ensuring a clean and safe environment at hawker centres. Improvements will include better spacing of aisles and tables to minimise crowding, installation of high volume low speed fans to improve ventilation, and incorporation of food waste recycling systems, where feasible. These will help make hawker centres safe and conducive for patrons and hawkers.
2 The programme will be progressively implemented at all new hawker centres and redeveloped centres. We will also engage stakeholders at a few existing centres to co-create and trial centre-level solutions to reduce crowding due to narrow aisles and passageways, and to improve ventilation. We will learn from these pilot centres and refine the HTP as it is rolled out.
3 NEA launched the Hawker Centre Toilet Improvement Programme (TIP) in 2020. The TIP offers co-funding for Town Councils to install better fittings and adopt technology which will make it easier to maintain and clean the toilets. For example, through the use of feedback systems, cleaners can carry out more targeted cleaning and work more efficiently.
4 We will continue to encourage hawker centres to come on board the Productive Hawker Centres (PHC) programme. This programme offers funding assistance for the adoption of automated tray return systems and centralised dishwashing services, which improves productivity and enhances cleanliness and hygiene standards.
5 NEA works with stallholders and patrons to share the responsibility of maintaining the cleanliness and hygiene of public dining places. Since the launch of the Clean Tables Campaign in February 2021, NEA has been progressively installing additional tray return infrastructure at hawker centres, to facilitate patrons’ return of dirty trays and crockery. NEA has also installed hand sanitiser dispensers and will be progressively providing additional hand sanitisers at tray return points in the hawker centres. We urge everyone to do their part, including clearing their own dirty trays, crockery and litter. This has been made mandatory since 21 June but with enforcement commencing only from 1 September. We will continue to enhance tray return infrastructure and processes to future-proof hawker centres against public health threats. Diners must also practise good personal hygiene and habits and continue to adhere to Safe Management Measures, such as checking-in via their TraceTogether app, keeping to approved group sizes, maintaining a distance of 1m from other patrons and wearing their masks properly to protect oneself against COVID-19.