NEA Says Smoking Corners At Coffee Shops Should Be Removed, Diners Urged To Return Trays

Maintaining Good Public Hygiene At Hawker Centres & Coffee Shops Includes Proper Tissue Disposal, NEA Says

As we commence Phase 2 tomorrow, dearly missed activities like dining in at hawker centres and coffee shops will be allowed.

Things won’t be completely the same, though, as we’ll be returning to these spaces with safe distancing measures in place.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has also announced that other than safe distancing measures, precautions to safeguard public hygiene will need to be taken as well.

That includes strongly encouraging coffee shops and hawker centres to remove their smoking corners, and urging patrons to dispose of their used tissues appropriately.

Holistic view of safeguarding public health

As part of their efforts to encourage better public health, the NEA is taking a holistic view of safeguarding public health, it said in a media release on Wednesday (17 Jun).

As such, it encouraged all coffee shops and hawker centres to remove their smoking corners.


Returning your tray now more important

Even before Covid-19, Singaporeans were encouraged to return their trays at hawker centres, food courts and coffee shops.

Some didn’t like the idea, and resisted it.


Now, returning trays may be more important than ever, as the NEA has advised hawker centres and coffee shops to implement a tray return system.

Diners are also strongly encouraged to return their trays and used crockeries to reduce the chances of disease transmission to cleaners and other diners.

This way, cleaners will also be able to focus on other cleaning tasks, like keeping the tables and surroundings clean.

Throw away your used tissues properly

Patrons have also been strongly advised to dispose of their used tissues after meals, instead of leaving them around on tables or worse, on the ground.


Tissues and wet wipes may carry germs, as they are often used to wipe mouths and noses after coughing or sneezing.

As such, they may pose a risk to those who touch them, or touch the surfaces that they are placed on.

Thus, the NEA has urged patrons to proactively throw their tissues away in bins, or with used plates and bowls when returning their trays.

Please don’t leave used tissues or wet wipes behind on tables for cleaners to clear, as this will expose them to infection.

Safe distancing ambassadors will advise patrons

If you’re wondering whether safe distancing ambassadors will still be around, they will be — we will continue to see them at hawker centres and coffee shops to ensure that we are “socially responsible”, the NEA said.

They will be there to advise diners to properly dispose of their used tissues and wet wipes, and to return their trays and crockeries, so the NEA has urged diners to follow their advice.

And we shouldn’t worry that cleaners will lose their jobs if patrons start returning their trays, the NEA said, adding,

There should be no concern of cleaners losing their jobs as they will still have cleaning tasks to perform at the tray return points or centralised dishwashing stations.

Gradual toilet upgrades

In addition to keeping the eating area clean, the NEA plans to launch a Toilet Improvement Programme to promote toilet cleanliness.


The programme aims to co-fund upgrading projects for toilets in older coffee shops and hawker centres.

These upgrades will make them easier to clean as well as more hygienic, and also encourage users to keep them clean.

Details about the proportion of the costs funded will be released at a later date.

Fines for operators of poorly maintained toilets

To ensure hygiene and cleanliness is upheld in public toilets, both the NEA and Singapore Food Agency (SFA) will also roll out stricter fines for owners


Toilet operators can be fined up to $400 when they don’t provide soap and tissue paper or keep their toilets clean. Subsequent offences will be fined up to $500.

If they don’t provide enough basic amenities and their toilets are unclean, owners/operators may be fined up to $5,000 for their first conviction.

Help keep public areas clean

Keeping the environment we share with others clean should be a matter of basic consideration, even without the threat of Covid-19.

It shouldn’t take a virus to prompt us to do what we can to help keep the environment clean.

Now that we’re moving into Phase 2, it’s crucial that we look out for each other so we keep community cases low.

As for cleaners, since we’ve recognised them as essential workers, let’s make their job safer since they’re helping to keep us safe.

Featured image adapted from Airport Smoking

Lucia Ng

Lucia only ever eats noodles and lives off bubble tea and coffee. She has no chill, ever, and loves sitcoms a little too much.

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