34 bus drivers from Toa Payoh, Punggol interchanges infected with Covid-19; all but one fully vaccinated

Toa Payoh Bus Interchange (pictured) and Punggol Bus Interchange were named as new Covid-19 clusters on Aug 26, 2021. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Thirty-four of the 36 Covid-19 cases linked to two new clusters at bus interchanges here are bus drivers, and all but one have been fully vaccinated.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) told The Straits Times on Friday (Aug 27) that nine of the infected bus drivers are from Punggol Bus Interchange and 25 are from Toa Payoh Bus Interchange.

Most are asymptomatic or have only mild symptoms, and were picked up through proactive antigen rapid tests (ART) conducted by the respective public transport operators.

Punggol Bus Interchange is managed by Go-Ahead Singapore, while Toa Payoh Bus Interchange is managed by SBS Transit.

All staff and contractors who were recently at the two interchanges will be tested for Covid-19 as part of additional community surveillance testing, LTA said.

Deep cleaning and disinfection have also been carried out at the two interchanges, as well as on all affected buses and facilities.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Thursday (Aug 26) that it is investigating the two new workplace clusters.

There are 11 cases linked to Punggol Bus Interchange, comprising 10 employees and a household contact of a staff member, while the Toa Payoh Bus Interchange cluster has 25 cases, all of whom are staff working there, MOH said.

There are now four active Covid-19 clusters linked to bus interchanges, including those in Bishan and Sengkang, which were announced on Aug 14.

As at Thursday, the cluster at Sengkang Bus Interchange had 22 cases, while the Bishan Bus Interchange cluster had grown to 21 cases, with two new infections added to it.

In the light of these developments, LTA said public transport operators will be taking extra precautions for mask-off activities for their workers.

These include ensuring workers take their meals and smoke breaks alone.

Said LTA: "We are monitoring the situation closely and will work with the (operators) to make further adjustments where necessary.

It is also working with the operators to minimise the impact of the new clusters on bus operations, it added.

According to the two operators, 98 per cent of SBS Transit bus drivers have been fully vaccinated or received the first dose of the vaccine, and 97 per cent of Go-Ahead Singapore's bus drivers have been vaccinated.

SBS Transit's senior vice president for corporate communications, Ms Tammy Tan, said about half of the 25 infected bus drivers from the Toa Payoh Bus Interchange are housemates.

None has had severe symptoms, and they are either in isolation centres or in hospital.

Meanwhile, 16 infected bus drivers from Bishan and Sengkang Bus Interchanges are recovering well and three of them have already been discharged, Ms Tan said.

SBS Transit has since stepped up antigen rapid testing at these interchanges as an added measure.

All staff must wear a mask, except during meal breaks, and group gatherings are not allowed.

Bus drivers have also been advised to dine alone, with one to a table.

The National Transport Workers' Union canteen at Punggol Bus Interchange will be closed for two weeks in the light of the new cluster. ST PHOTO: SYAMIL SAPARI

Go-Ahead Singapore has also put in place similar measures, with common spaces also clearly demarcated to minimise any contact between colleagues.

The National Transport Workers' Union canteen at Punggol Bus Interchange will be closed for two weeks in the light of the new cluster, said a spokesman.

All staff working at the interchange will also complete a mandatory polymerase chain reaction swab test by the end of this week.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.