Written Reply to Parliamentary Question on Public Hygiene Standards by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment
Written Reply by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, to Parliamentary Question on Public Hygiene Standards
Mr Don Wee: To ask the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment (a) whether the Ministry conducts public surveys and monitor complaints and feedback on the general hygiene standards at hawker centres and coffee shops; (b) if so, whether there has been an increase of complaints regarding the hygiene standards; (c) how does the Ministry ensure that cleaning companies, coffeeshop and food court operators adhere to the required hygiene standards; and (d) whether the frequency of enforcement checks, fines and penalties for hygiene violations have been effective.
Ms Joan Pereira: To ask the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment in view of the recent shortage of cleaning manpower, what measures will the Ministry implement to maintain public hygiene standards and cleanliness particularly in hawker centres and food courts.
With more Singaporeans returning to the workplace and tourist arrivals in Singapore, there has been a rise in the demand for cleaning services, including at hawker centres, coffeeshops and food courts. At the same time, with the recent reopening of Singapore’s land border with Malaysia, many Malaysians also took the opportunity to return to Malaysia, further contributing to the strain in manpower in the cleaning sector. The cleaning industry is doing its best to address this confluence of events through cross-deployment and backfilling of cleaners. The Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment is monitoring the situation closely and will respond as necessary.
The experience of COVID-19 has reinforced the need for high standards of cleanliness and hygiene. Through initiatives such as the Environmental Sanitation (ES) Regime, the government has been working with stakeholders to improve cleanliness standards, including at hawker centres, coffeeshops and food courts. By setting baseline standards and cleaning frequencies for both thorough as well as routine cleaning, and for high-touch surfaces, premises managers can better plan cleaning resources to upkeep hygiene standards.
There are regular mechanisms in place that we will continue to use to monitor public hygiene and cleanliness standards. For example, the Singapore Management University has been conducting the annual Public Cleanliness Satisfaction Survey (PCSS), which measures the level of public satisfaction with public cleanliness in Singapore. The survey covers a wide range of settings, including food outlets such as hawker centres and coffeeshops. The findings show that the satisfaction level for cleanliness during the COVID-19 period was higher than that pre-COVID. For hawker centres, the average satisfaction level improved from 62% to 83% while for coffeeshops, it increased from 65% to 77%. The satisfaction level for cleanliness in food courts also improved from 87% to 96% over the same period.
NEA and SFA also monitor public feedback closely. Public feedback volumes on general cleanliness at hawker centres, coffeeshops and food courts have remained stable, even with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions.
We have received feedback from patrons that the tables are not cleaned fast enough at some of our public dining places. NEA and SFA have worked with coffeeshop and food court operators, hawkers’ associations and cleaning contractors to deploy and guide cleaners to revise cleaning workflows to improve cleanliness levels. There will be a team of cleaners focusing on wiping and sanitising tables in a timely manner after diners have cleared their tables, while a separate team of cleaners ensures that the designated tray and crockery return points are also continuously being cleared. SFA also conducts checks at coffeeshops and food courts, and most operators have complied with our requirements.
NEA and SFA will continue to work closely with the coffeeshop and food court operators, hawkers’ associations and cleaning contractors to address the operational gaps observed and step up cleaning efforts. At the same time, I hope that we can all be patient as the sector adjusts to meet the rise in demand and shortage of labour. I also encourage everyone to continue to play our part in keeping our public dining places clean and safe.