Orchard Road restrictions: Itaewon incident serves as a reminder that public safety cannot be taken for granted, say police, Singapore News

SINGAPORE — Huge crowds are expected in Orchard Road during the festive end-of-year celebrations and public safety cannot be taken for granted, police said on Saturday.

In light of this, police say they have recommended to the National Arts Council (NAC) to restrict street activity in certain locations when crowds peak.

Responding to questions from the media, the police: “The Korean Itaewon incident reminds us that public safety cannot be taken for granted. Appropriate crowd control measures should be in place.

“We must not compromise on public safety, and we hope for the understanding and cooperation of all the actors participating or involved in the organization of the end of year festivities.

Buskers had expressed dismay after being told by the NAC that they would not be allowed to perform outside seven Orchard Road shopping centers on certain dates in December, including Christmas Eve (December 24) and New Year’s Eve (December 31).

The street gambling ban will apply from 7pm to 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays outside of these shopping centres: Ion Orchard, Wisma Atria, Ngee Ann City, The Heeren, [email protected], Knightsbridge and Mandarin Gallery.

Citing public safety concerns and advisories from relevant agencies, the NAC said in a Nov. 14 email, “As we approach the end-of-year festivities, larger crowds are expected around from Orchard Road, particularly on dates before Christmas and New Years Eve.

Security experts at the Straits Times said concerns about public safety amid large crowds may have been raised following the Halloween crowd crush in Itaewon, South Korea, which killed more of 150 people.

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Assistant Professor Jeffrey Chan of the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) said the tragedy in South Korea, along with an expected higher number of shoppers due to relaxed Covid-19 measures, could have led to a greater emphasis on public safety.

He noted that at Orchard Road, the inclines and walkways connecting malls can become bottlenecks when footfall is high.

He said: “The public should increase their awareness of these risk factors and then make responsible decisions for themselves. We really need all parties to make responsible decisions for a safe and dense urban environment like ours. »

Mr. John Vijayan Vasavan, the former President of the Association of Certified Security Agencies, added: “(Authorities) need to think about all the possible scenarios that can happen. Someone can accidentally fall. A fight can break out if people jostle each other. If the weather deteriorates, everyone will scramble for shelter.

“If an accident happens, it can put the brakes on celebrations during the holiday season,” added Mr. Vasavan, also a director of Weavepact Security Services.

The Buskers Association said buskers add to the festive atmosphere along Singapore’s main shopping belt. In a statement posted on Facebook on Thursday, the association said it was completely discouraged by the ban and called on the NAC – which oversees the licensing of buskers in Singapore – to reverse its decision.

The association said it has always worked with Orchard Road Shopping Centers Safety Management to ensure a safe distance between performers and the public during times of high human traffic.

The ban would likely hurt street musicians as they depend significantly on income from increased attendance in December, the association added.

Busker Jeremy Chin, 24, estimates his earnings will fall by around 75% in December due to the ban.

Mr Chin, who works full-time as a guitar teacher apart from his street gigs, said buskers’ business has already been badly affected as slots in Orchard Road are usually assigned by vote.

Mr Jeremy Han, 33, who walks twice a week in Orchard Road, said before Covid-19 he could earn up to $10,000 in December as shoppers were more willing to spend during the holiday season.

The Wedding Singer said: ‘I don’t think a ban is fair given that we were not consulted and had no opportunity to provide comment before it was announced.

“But I understand why the authorities are considering putting in place security measures. Maybe they could mark off the performance area instead so passers-by don’t rush if they see it’s already full.

People around Christmas decorations at Wisma Atria along Orchard Road on November 12, 2022. PHOTO: The Straits Times

In their statement, police said that before the Covid-19 pandemic, Orchard Road would be very congested with Christmas displays and pop-up kiosks.

Police said: “The presence of buskers and ice cream vendors caused pedestrians to stop and crowd around these points, further reducing walkable space on the sidewalks and further impeding traffic flow. some people.”

This year, police said barricades and officers will be deployed and public notifications will also be sent when certain areas are closed to prevent overcrowding.

In recent weekends, the crowds in Orchard Road have been considerably denser, and the Police said: ‘(We) are working with Orchard Road Business Association to put in place more crowd control measures along the entire stretch of Orchard Road to ensure the safety of Singaporean and overseas visitors.

“We are grateful that the NAC appreciated these crowd concerns and worked with us. The police and the NAC will engage relevant stakeholders. »

This article first appeared in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.