SINGAPORE - Residents might see their trash around for longer periods than usual, with waste collection timings being extended from 7pm now to 10pm in the days to come.
The cleaning frequency might also be reduced and certain areas might only be cleaned on alternate days, said Mr Tai Ji Choong, director of the Department of Public Cleanliness at the National Environment Agency (NEA), at a Straits Times panel discussion on Monday (March 23) on tackling the spread of Covid-19 here.
The changes in operations come as cleaning service providers here face a lack of manpower following the lockdown imposed by Malaysia earlier this month, which affected a number of cleaners in Singapore who come from across the Causeway.
Mr Tai said that the maintenance of cleanliness in critical areas such as drains - which are a source of dengue mosquito breeding - as well as the emptying of bins, will be prioritised. The same goes for areas that have very high footfall, he added.
He said: "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.
"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."
Mr Tai added that Singapore's incineration plants remain unaffected but the agency will continue to monitor other waste management services such as waste recycling.
"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."
The agency is also looking to have more areas cleaned by mechanical road sweepers, he added.
Mr Tai also said in the panel discussion that NEA, together with the Health Ministry and the National Centre for Infectious Diseases, has developed a set of interim guidelines for disinfection which owners of premises have to follow closely.
Whenever a new case of infection has been reported, the agency walks the premises' cleaning crew through the cleaning process - including wearing proper personal protective equipment, using the right disinfectants and identifying frequently touched areas such as lift buttons, handrails, benches and table tops.
Mr Tai said the agency's officers would figure out the things residents "have to touch in order to move around".
"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."
Besides working with cleaning service providers, NEA works with households with a family member who has been infected with the coronavirus. The agency advises these families on proper disinfection procedures and assists them in disposing of items that might be contaminated, such as pillowcases and bedsheets.
Also on Monday's panel were 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.