Very large crowds are expected in Orchard Road during the year-end festive celebrations and public safety cannot be taken for granted, the police said on Saturday.
In the light of this, the police said they have recommended to the National Arts Council (NAC) that it restrict busking activities at selected locations when crowds peak.
“The Korean Itaewon incident is a reminder that public safety cannot be taken for granted,” police said.
“Appropriate crowd control measures must be put in place. We must not compromise on public safety, and we hope for the understanding and cooperation of all stakeholders participating in, or involved in the organization of, the year-end festivities.”
Buskers expressed their dismay after they were told by the NAC that they would not be allowed to perform outside seven Orchard Road malls on selected dates in December, including Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.
The busking ban will apply from 7pm to 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays outside these malls: Ion Orchard, Wisma Atria, Ngee Ann City, The Heeren, 313@Somerset, Knightsbridge and Mandarin Gallery.
Citing public safety concerns and advisories from relevant agencies, the NAC said in a Nov 14 e-mail sent to a busker: “As we approach the year-end festivities, there is anticipation of larger crowds around Orchard Road, especially on the dates leading up to Christmas and New Year’s Eve.”
Security experts said concerns over public safety amid large crowds could have risen in the aftermath of the Itaewon tragedy.
John Vijayan Vasavan, the immediate past president of the Association of Certified Security Agencies, said: “(The authorities) have to think of every possible scenario that can occur. Someone can accidentally fall. A brawl may break out if people are jostling. If the weather worsens, everyone would scramble for shelter.”
Vasavan, who is the director of Weavepact Security Services, added: “If an accident happens, that can dampen the celebrations during the festive period.”
The Buskers’ Association said buskers add to the festive atmosphere along Singapore’s prime shopping belt. In a statement posted on Facebook on Thursday, the association said it was completely disheartened 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 the security management of Orchard Road malls to ensure a safe distance between performers and the audience during periods of higher human traffic.
The ban would likely hurt buskers as they rely significantly on earnings from the increased footfall in December, the association added.
The police said that before the Covid-19 pandemic, Orchard Road would be very crowded with Christmas display pieces and pop-up booths.
“The presence of buskers and ice-cream sellers caused pedestrians to stop and crowd around those points, which further reduced the passable space on the footpaths and further impeded the flow of people,” said the police.
This year, the police said barricades and officers will be deployed and public notifications will be sent when certain areas are closed off to prevent overcrowding.
On recent weekends, crowds in Orchard Road have been considerably heavier, and the police said: “(We) are working with the Orchard Road Business Association to put in more crowd control measures along the entire stretch of Orchard Road to keep Singaporean and foreign visitors safe.