In a Facebook post on Monday (23 March), former Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) and Workers’ Party politician Gerald Giam called for the frequency of buses and trains in Singapore to be increased. This is so social distancing can be practiced and crowding in public areas will be reduced, instead of not talking to each other while using public transport.
Mr Giam’s post came following Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan’s earlier statement where he urged commuters to not talk when using public transport as it will increase the transmission of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) with droplets being spread by talking.
Mr Khaw recommended several precautionary measures for commuters during a visit to the Bright Hill MRT station on Monday (23 March).
He urged people who are not feeling well to refrain from using public transport in order to reduce the risk of endangering other commuters. He also counseled members of the public to reduce unnecessary travels amid the outbreak of COVID-19, and “talk softly” if necessary.
He said, “Best, don’t talk. Let fellow commuters have a quiet journey.”
Based on Mr Khaw’s statement, Mr Giam asked, “How about increasing the frequency of buses and trains? That will reduce crowding and increase social distance better than not talking, and it is something with the control of MOT and the PTOs.”
He added that sticking close to each other in a crowded public transport defeats the social distancing measures that have been rolled out by the Government islandwide.
“Crowding in public transport could be a weak link in social distancing measures that are being rolled out island-wide. What’s the point of sitting 1m apart in the office and in restaurants, only to squeeze into jam-packed trains on the journey home?” he asked.
Stringent measures imposed by Govt to curb the spreading of COVID-19
In the wake of 40 new COVID-19 cases recorded in Singapore on Friday evening (20 Mar), the Government has decided to implement stricter social distancing measures and may even impose “escalating penalties” to those found to be non-compliant.
National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, co-chairman of the task force on COVID-19, told a press conference on Friday that requiring the suspension of all events and gatherings with 250 or more attendees at a single time is a part of “a range of very stringent, safe distancing measures” put in place to limit further local transmission of COVID-19.
The new measure is an extension of an earlier one, which called for ticketed cultural, sports, and entertainment events to be limited to fewer than 250 participants.
Another heightened social distancing measure, said Mr Wong, is to ensure that operators of venues in public places adopt the separation of at least one metre between customers.
“Whether it is a hawker centre, coffee shop or restaurant, there will be a safe distance between diners. And through licensing, we will enforce this,” he said.
If that’s not all, Mr Wong also said that another measure that should be taken to promote increased social distancing is for employers to implement measures to reduce interactions of close physical proximity between workers.
Thus, measures such as telecommuting to allow employees to work from home and replacing physical meetings with teleconferencing should be adopted by employers whenever possible, he said.
However, for employees whose job scope does not allow for a work-from-home arrangement, one of the measures Mr Wong said employers should undertake is applying staggered working hours.
“Where possible, reporting and ending times should not coincide with peak-hour travel, especially if employees require the use of public transport,” said the Ministry.
Other measures called upon by MOH for employers include providing physical spacing of at least one metre apart between work stations and in meeting rooms, shortening the duration, downsizing the capacity of meetings, and postponing non-critical work events.