Lorries being used to ferry foreign workers involved in providing essential services have to follow safe distancing measures, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and Land Transport Authority (LTA) on Friday (10 April) in a joint advisory.
The authorities noted that employers and lorry owners must review the maximum seating capacity of each vehicle to ensure workers can maintain a safe 1 meter distance between each passenger, in line with the circuit breaker measures announced by the government earlier this week.
MOM and LTA elaborated that appropriate seating should be marked out in the lorries, adding that these measures should also be communicated to both the workers and lorry drivers. The authorities added that employers should provide additional trips or lorries if necessary.
This statement came at the heels of a Straits Times (ST) report which noted readers seeing overcrowded lorries carrying foreign workers. Photos showed as many as seven or more workers crammed into a lorry with little to no space between them.
Employers who do not comply with safe distancing requirements will have action taken against them, said an MOM spokesperson.
Separately, ST reported dormitory operators sharing their concern over person-to-person interaction during the commute to and from the dormitories to other places during this time. The general manager of Capital Development Mr Calvin Lim said that one concern they’ve always had have been the mode of transportation, explaining that there is a chance that workers could catch the virus during their commute.
Mr Lim added, “It helps if a company takes steps to transport workers in a way that minimises contact.”
Capital Development operate Toh Guan Dormitory which has 25 cases of COVID-19 so far and was declared an isolation area on Wednesday (8 April) by the Ministry of Health (MOH). This means that workers living in that dormitory are confined to their rooms for 14 days.
This move follows an increase in foreign worker infections in the last few days, especially the 202 out of 287 cases confirmed on Thursday linked to dormitories.
To date, 10 dormitories are active clusters. Five of those have been declared and gazetted as isolation areas. Just yesterday (9 April), the Tampines Dormitory was declared an isolation area after the MOH reported an additional 17 cases of COVID-19 linked to the dormitory at 2 Tampines Place.
Other dormitories that have been gazetted as isolation areas include S11 Dormitory @ Punggol, Westlite Toh Guan dormitory, Toh Guan Dormitory and the Sungei Tengah Lodge.
In the joint advisory, MOM and LTA explained that these measures are necessary to reduce the transmission of the virus among workers.
They said, “Employers and lorry owners are expected to comply with the above immediately until the end of the circuit breaker or when notified by the authorities.”