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With the spike in coronavirus cases, dine-in group sizes are back to two while fully vaccinated diners may continue to sit in groups of five

Update: The government has announced that there will be no dining in from July 22 to August 18.

The past few days have seen an alarming spike in coronavirus cases from the active KTV, food markets and Jurong Fishery Port clusters, and it is highly likely that the numbers will continue to rise in the next few weeks. In order to curb the further spread of Covid-19, the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced on July 16 new updates on the dine-in rules.

From today (July 19) until August 8, dine-in group sizes have been reduced to two while fully vaccinated diners are still allowed in groups of five. A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after they receive their second dose. With less than a week to react to the regulations, restaurants quickly scrambled over the weekend to update the bookings following the government mandate.

“I am very annoyed with the change… but there isn’t much we can do about it,” admits Salted & Hung chef-owner Drew Nocente, who elaborated that they have been strictly complying with the government rules since day one. When the updated protocols were announced last week, Nocente confirmed that they’ve had 45 cancellations this month.

Karen Cheng, the co-founder of yakiniku restaurant The Gyu Bar and sushi-ya Ichigo Ichie, is also disappointed, but confessed that the team is also "concerned about the developing clusters". She expounds: "I estimate that 50 per cent of bookings at The Gyu Bar were cancelled after the news was announced. For Ichigo Ichie, most of the bookings are for two persons, hence bookings were less affected. The changes are likely due to a combination of factors—in addition to the new restrictions, guests may also be more cautious about dining out."

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Remy Lefebvre, the chef-partner of Casa Restaurant by Remy Lefebvre at Chijmes which only opened last month, wasn’t spared either. And although he understands that the government is doing its best to keep everyone safe, he says that he would be lying if he said he was fine with the dine-in changes. “Like all other industries, we are facing a very hard time and it’s difficult to plan and manage our business well.”

When we dined at Casa last week, the 35-seat restaurant was fully booked. And with the new announcement, Lefebvre shared that they had a lot of cancellations for groups of four and five diners, though he didn’t elaborate on the exact number. But he is hopeful for dine-ins to pick up soon, as “many informed us that that they are on their way get fully vaccinated.”

Despite the dine-in rules, Canchita Peruvian Cuisine manager Celvin Chiang believes that Singapore is still in a much better position than last year, and the higher vaccination rate is a big contributing factor. “The government is “exercising more flexibility this time round to allow businesses to continue operating during these challenging times”.

When asked about how the measures have affected the bookings, Chiang says that the team is fortunate that they are still receiving “quite a number of bookings for two diners”. That said, they have adjusted the layout of the dining area so they are able to host tables of two and five.

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Adhering to these protocols is important to restaurants to ensure the safety of their guests. Lefebvre and Nocente shared that the restaurant staff have already contacted the guests to remind them to show proof of their vaccination status prior to dining in at the establishment. Chiang also reiterated the message, adding that diners who are not able to produce proof will of their vaccination status will not be allowed to dine in groups of five.

The recent spike cases is a reminder to everyone that everyone needs to play their part to curb the spread of the virus. And with the impact Covid-19 has had on the F&B industry for more than a year, Nocente wants to remind people that “selfish acts affect so many other people who are trying to do the right thing. It also affects the livelihoods of so many people in our industry”.

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