Health Minister Ong Ye Kung assures public they won’t get tuberculosis by eating at ABC Brickworks hawker centre

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung and Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Eric Chua Dining Together at ABC Brickworks Market and Food Centre on 14 January. (PHOTO: Facebook/ongyekung)

SINGAPORE —Health Minister Ong Ye Kung has reassured the public that there is no need for concern regarding tuberculosis (TB) transmission at the ABC Brickworks Market and Food Centre in Jalan Bukit Merah, after it was closed last week for TB screening.

In a Facebook post on Sunday (14 January), Ong shared his observations after dining at the market, noting that it was “markedly quieter than before”. Hawkers have also expressed concerns about decreased patronage due to fears of TB transmission.

Ong emphasised that the risk of catching TB from visiting the hawker centre is unlikely. He explained, “TB is spread after close and prolonged exposure, usually days to weeks.”

He also clarified that transmission does not occur through common activities like sharing cups, utensils, food, handshaking, or occasional meals at the hawker centre.

Health Minister provides reassurance and clarity on tuberculosis concerns

The Health Ministry said on 5 January that 10 new TB cases were genetically linked to a cluster at Block 2 Jalan Bukit Merah, which emerged in 2022. In response, a mass screening from 11 to 15 January was announced.

This screening is mandatory for certain individuals who frequent Jalan Bukit Merah, including food centre employees. For others, it is voluntary and serves as a precautionary measure to identify TB cases in the area.

Ong made a visit to the hawker centre on Sunday, where he had dinner with Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth Eric Chua, mentioning they had claypot rice, oyster omelette, and chendol.

He added in his subsequent Facebook post, “The vast majority of us don’t fall into this category so please go ahead and enjoy the good food at ABC. Let’s support our hawkers.”

Minister Grace Fu and team support local hawkers at ABC Brickworks Food Centre

Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu and her ministry’s office holders Amy Khor and Baey Yam Keng also dined at the food centre last Friday (12 January) to show support after learning about the centre’s slow business.

Fu also put up a Facebook post to encourage locals in the Bukit Merah area to visit ABC Brickworks Food Centre for affordable and delicious meals.

As of now, more than 1,500 people, representing about 93 per cent of eligible residents, have signed up for mandatory screening, and all active TB cases have been treated and rendered non-infectious, according to The Straits Times.

Makansutra founder calls for support for hawkers beyond public outings

Meanwhile, food critic and Makansutra founder K F Seetoh, emphasised an approach to supporting hawkers beyond mere public outings in a Facebook post on Sunday.

The post was apparently directed at Fu’s visit to the hawker centre, as Seetoh advised, “Please don’t go there, eat and generate media for your outing. If you are serious about helping the hawkers, reduce their rents for the troubled period and work with delivery companies to offer discounts.”

Seetoh also suggested collaborating with national media to showcase hawker offerings and holding press conferences to garner support.

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