On Monday (23 March), Director of the Department of Public Cleanliness at the National Environment Agency (NEA) Tai Ji Choong announced that the cleaning frequency would be reduced and specific areas would be cleaned on alternate days. The waste collection timings have also been extended from 7pm to 10pm in the days to come.

Mr Tai said this at a Straits Times panel discussion which was attended by Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli; Professor Wang Linfa, Director of the Emerging Infectious Diseases Programme at Duke-NUS Medical School; and Mr Edward D’Silva, Chairman of the Public Hygiene Council.

The Restricted Movement Order (RMO) issued by Malaysia earlier this month has had a direct impact on the number of cleaning staff available – those who travel daily across the border via the Causeway.

The NEA Director emphasised the need to clean up crucial areas, especially the drains which are effective breeding grounds for dengue mosquitoes. Also, the disposal of trash in bins would be prioritised. Similarly, cleanliness maintenance will be undertaken in areas of high footfall.

“But for all other areas, we may have to reduce our cleaning frequencies, and we ask for residents’ understanding that for certain areas that are cleaned daily, we may have to actually clean (on) alternate days,” said Mr Tai.

He added, “We ask also for residents’ understanding that the refuse may be with them for a longer time… Our workers will try their best to remove it as quickly as possible.”

At the press conference, Mr Tai noted that the incineration plants in Singapore would continue to be in operation. However, the NEA will continue to monitor other waste management services like waste recycling.

Mr Tai explained “Our message to Singaporeans is this: Please don’t litter. Throw your litter into the bins. If everybody acted responsibly, we can still keep Singapore clean, even with the reduced manpower required to clean Singapore.”

On the other hand, Mr Tai added that the NEA is also planning to have more areas cleaned by using mechanical road sweepers.

Additionally, the NEA alongside the Health Ministry and the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) have prepared a set of interim protocols on disinfection that owners of premises have to adhere to.

When new cases of infections are confirmed, the agency closely oversees the cleaning of the premises by the cleaning staff. This includes paying attention to wearing appropriate protective equipment, utilising the correct disinfectants, and determining regularly touched surfaces which include lift buttons, handrails, benches, and table tops.

Mr Tai elaborated, “That is something that we pay attention to and the cleaning crew might not be so aware of these areas – they will just sweep the floor. But we actually raise their awareness of all these kinds of areas that they need to wipe down.”

At the same time, the NEA will assist and advise households that have family members who are infected with COVID-19. These families are advised on implementing correct disinfection procedures. The NEA will also assist these families to dispense belongings with particles that may have been subjected to contamination by the virus. This includes the removal of items such as pillowcases and bed sheets.

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