Weak links in Covid-19 fight

Coronavirus: At least 350,000 in Singapore still commuting to work daily

A staff member from Nee Soon Town Council explaining the stricter rules for entry at Chong Pang Market to a shopper yesterday.
A staff member from Nee Soon Town Council explaining the stricter rules for entry at Chong Pang Market to a shopper yesterday.ST PHOTO: JOEL CHAN
A landscape worker pruning plants outside Heartbeat @ Bedok yesterday. The cut in the number of essential services would reduce the proportion of the workforce commuting to work from 20 per cent to 15 per cent.
A landscape worker pruning plants outside Heartbeat @ Bedok yesterday. The cut in the number of essential services would reduce the proportion of the workforce commuting to work from 20 per cent to 15 per cent.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

At least 350,000 workers in Singapore are still commuting to work daily, even after the number of services considered essential was reduced on Wednesday to further control the local spread of the coronavirus.

This is according to calculations based on latest official figures.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong had said on Tuesday that the cut in the number of essential services would reduce the proportion of the workforce commuting to work from 20 per cent to 15 per cent.

He also said the Government's decision to have fewer essential services was prompted by the fact that many local infections that occurred after the April 7 start of the circuit breaker period involved those working in essential services or who had family members doing so.

With the local workforce in December last year standing at 2.36 million, 15 per cent of this works out to about 353,000 workers.

This number rises to around 567,000 if foreigners are included, as the total workforce last December is 3.78 million.

More recent statistics are not available and the Manpower Ministry's figures show the country's workforce grew from 3.71 million in 2018 to 3.78 million last year.

Singapore has seen a downward trend in the daily number of new local cases since the circuit breaker kicked in.

Of the 1,037 new cases yesterday, 22 were Singaporeans or permanent residents.

But despite the decline in community cases, Singaporeans cannot afford to be complacent, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had said on Tuesday, when he announced the extension of the circuit breaker period for another four weeks till June 1.

PM Lee, in his national address on the Covid-19 situation, noted that the number of unlinked cases has not come down, which suggests there is a "larger, hidden reservoir of cases in the community... (that) we have not detected".

The move to have fewer workers in essential services has seen even those remaining on the list starting to work from home, if possible.

 
 
 
 

Accountant Eunice Lim, 57, who works in healthcare, started working from home on Wednesday, with different groups of hospital employees alternating between home and office in the weeks ahead.

"But there will be some days when I will have to go back to the office, as doctors and nurses will still need administrators like us around for urgent matters," she added.

Fishmonger Eddy Chua, 52, who has a stall at Ghim Moh Market, said: "For us fishmongers, since we use a lot of water in our work, it's our habit to observe personal hygiene by washing our hands a lot.

"All of us basically stay at our stalls and avoid walking around, and now I also make sure to take a shower immediately after I get home."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 24, 2020, with the headline 'At least 350,000 in S'pore still commuting to work daily'. Print Edition | Subscribe