As part of the stricter measures for the period of heightened alert that Singapore is in from now till 13 June, commercial car-pooling services will be halted while taxis and private-hire cars will only be allowed to take more than two passengers if they are from the same household, said the Land Transport Authority.
In a statement, the LTA said that these measures are put in place to minimise interaction between people of different households and the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
The restrictions will mean that taxis and private-hire cars will have to limit passengers from different households to just two.
LTA reminded drivers and passengers to keep their masks on at all times and advised drivers to decline picking up passengers who do not wear masks.
The Agency is also disallowing all forms of commercial car-pooling such as GrabHitch and RydePool. Such services involve drivers picking up other passengers en route to their destination.
As for non-commercial car pooling, LTA said that this is permitted only among friends or colleagues but with the limit of two people per car.
“We strongly encourage commuters to use public transport, taxis and private-hire cars booked through their respective ride-hail applications,” said the LTA.
The agency also called for the public to report anyone who offers illegal car-pooling services during this period.
LTA added: “When travelling on public transport, commuters should try to spread themselves out or travel during off-peak periods where possible. They should also continue to adhere to the prevailing safe management measures such as maintaining good personal hygiene and refraining from talking.”
On the other hand, one of Mr Ong Ye Kung’s last stances taken in his capacity as Transport Minister prior to being appointed as Health Minister on 14 May was that public transportation can be kept “very safe” via various precautions including replenishing the air in MRT trains every six minutes and mandating passengers to keep on their masks on during the commute.
He noted that the current ridership on trains and buses is at about 70 per cent of that before the Covid-19 pandemic. This is expected to fall further with the series of additional restrictions that will kick in from 16 May, with work from home becoming the default.
But despite the fall in ridership, trains and buses have been running at the same frequencies as before Covid-19, he said.
Puzzling rules by LTA on taxis and private-hires
The clarification on passenger limits has the public questioning the effectiveness of such a rule. Several netizens on The Straits Times Facebook page wondered whether this rule is even enforceable, and if so, would it be up to the drivers to check the ICs of their passengers to ensure that they are from the same household.
One person pointed out that a simple two passenger limit regardless of household would be a more logical rule.
Another person said that people would abuse this rule and that it is difficult to enforce. The netizen suggested going into a full lockdown instead.
Others questioned the reasoning or logic behind limiting taxis and rivate-hire cars to two passengers while people are still allowed to take busses and trains where they would be mingling with many people people from different households.
One person questioned the LTA’s advise for groups of colleagues in which they said that they can travel together but must split into groups of not more than two. The netizens questioned this in relation to the updated social gathering rules which limits groups to just two people.
Others wondered how children who live separately from their elderly parents could take them out for medical appointments or anything else if there is a two person limit for people from different households.
One person pointed out that her mother needs two people to help her around, and wondered if she is now disallowed from boarding a taxi with her mother and one helper under this new regulation.
One person pointed out that the “weakest link” in Singapore is the airports, calling out the government to stop punishing law abiding citizens .
Another similarly said that Singaporeans would find it easier to take in these tightened measures if the country’s borders had been preemptively tightened earlier in April when there was an alarming surge of cases in other countries.