COVID-19: Condo residents on why banning dog walks and exercise is a bad idea

French bulldog ready to head out for a walk. Image: Bianca Ackermann
French bulldog ready to head out for a walk. Image: Bianca Ackermann

After the Building and Construction Authority clarified this week that people cannot exercise or walk their pets at their condominium buildings, residents have come forward to complain it is counterproductive.

Arguing that the rule forces them out into more vulnerable public spaces and may even distress their four-legged companions, a number of residents have complained the restriction on physical activity forces them out of the relative security of their buildings.

“It’s definitely more dangerous because it’s more crowded in public areas. Within the condo compound, the number of people is definitely significantly lesser than that of public spaces,” said Huan Ying Tan, 27, who lives in the east and was one of three people who spoke to Coconuts Singapore about their concerns.

The rule for private condos came down earlier this month. Common areas such as gardens, playgrounds, pools, paths and other open spaces have been seen as places at risk of too much traffic, which did not help social distancing measures.

“However, it can get crowded in these spaces, and there is difficulty in enforcing safe distancing,” the authority told CNA. Since April 7, condominiums have been ordered to close common facilities in line with “circuit breaker” measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, which has infected more than 15,000 people and killed 14 in Singapore. 

The complaints soon started pouring in.

Criticism posted to the BCA Facebook page.
Criticism posted to the BCA Facebook page.

‘Endangers residents’

Marc Ha, 47, who sits on his condo’s management committee in Hougang, said there is plenty of space for residents to exercise on the premises. 

“I also exercise and finish some of my outdoor runs back in the estate with about 10 min of cardio exercises that I do on my own, with no one around,” the marketing and communications consultant said in a message. Ha was one of those who had complained to the authority, adding that he had done so on behalf of other residents affected by the rule. 

He believes that the rule endangers condo residents because overcrowding on the public paths outside leaves less room for safe distancing.

“Pushing residents out of the condo onto the already busy 1.5 [meter] narrow footpaths along Hougang Ave 7 allows for little to no social distancing,” he added. “So this rule actually endangers residents facing such scenarios.”

Doggo distress

Jurong resident Linda Cochran, 45, said the new rule meant she is forced to walk her dogs via routes they are unfamiliar with, which can make them anxious. 

“We live out in Jurong and do not have an area that is currently open (like a park) for walking our dogs. Now we have to exit via the garage onto a street with a bus line just a block away,” the American expatriate said yesterday.

“My dogs are not used to traffic and it terrifies me that they will get loose and sprint into traffic.” 

She also felt that the “extreme” measure could have been avoided if everyone had observed the COVID-19 rules, such as wearing masks.

“When I walked the dogs for the last time yesterday, there was a man doing practice golf swings in the dog walk area without a mask,” she said. “The other night, there was an 8-year-old biking around with no mask.” 

There’s also her pooch’s more basic needs.

“The people who have to go out for their dogs to pee and etc are being punished for the acts of others who think that the rules don’t apply to them. I cannot choose to have my dog pee inside or outside but others can choose to follow the rules.”

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