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Effects of Covid-19 on the Hawker Culture in Singapore

The Hawker Culture in Singapore is a multicultural urban context that permeates throughout Singapore. The hawker is a ‘community dining room’ set in an open-air complex with food stalls. People from various backgrounds gather and share the experience of eating together over breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There are also many hawker centres where people can play Chinese chess, and it is common to see buskers performing near these locations.

Internationally, hawker centres have become a symbol for Singapore’s multiculturalism, as it boasts favourite foods and dishes from multiple cultures and even fusion food. It is also known as Singaporean “street food” to many foreigners. However, like many other countries’ street food, the hawker scene in Singapore had previously been heavily impacted by the Covid-19 situation. Many markets and hawker centres were closed during Singapore’s nationwide lockdown, but with the recent easing of restrictions, more people are starting to resume dining in at hawker centres.

In 2021, many wet markets and hawker centres closed due to Covid-19 transmission among stall and workers. This made it extremely difficult for hawker vendors to sustain their livelihoods, and it was an inconvenience for regular customers who were unable to access their favourite food options. Despite the difficulties, it was more prudent to avoid human contact in the hawker centres as the stall owners were also wary of infection. (cited from The Straits Times)

This year, hawker centres have reopened and many stall owners are relieved due to the easing of restrictions. Despite having been open during the period of minimised contact, as not all hawker stalls closed, the Covid-19 restrictions have left their mark on the hawker scene. Many Singaporeans hope that their favourite stalls will have endured through the pandemic and that hawker centres can once again be a hub for the Singaporean community to thrive. Furthermore, with the easing of restrictions and reopening of hawker centres, the economy will also be stimulated.

Vaccinated people may now dine in at hawker centres in groups, and more tables and seats have been re-opened at hawker centres. Although huge crowds are generally advised to be avoided, many families are now enjoying their favourite food from hawker centres and returning to their daily lives. This also can bring back the purpose of the hawker centre which is to bring community culture dining back to Singapore.

- Written by: Patricia Shareleen and Asahi Yip, Cayman Management Consultants


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