Coronavirus: Beware of people who impersonate safe distancing enforcement officers, warns MEWR

Jetstar pilot Van Ta, an SG Clean ambassador, visits public locations to encourage people to practice safe distancing. PHOTO: NATIONAL ENVIRONMENT AGENCY
Enforcement officers will wear identifiers such as SG Clean Ambassador pass or red passes. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER RESOURCES

SINGAPORE - Members of the public should stay vigilant and be wary of those who impersonate enforcement officers ensuring compliance with elevated safe distancing measures, the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) said on Wednesday (April 15).

From Thursday, such enforcement officers and safe distancing ambassadors can also be identified through red passes that they will carry with them, MEWR added.

Enforcement officers may also wear a red armband. This is on top of existing identifiers including their agencies' corporate attire, staff pass and/or lanyard, or the SG Clean Ambassador pass.

"These new identifiers will help the public to better identify enforcement officers and ambassadors," said MEWR, adding that members of the public should always request the officer's identification to verify his or her identity before complying with the instructions of the officer.

Besides police officers, enforcement officers are the only officers who can take enforcement action by issuing composition fines against the public for breaches of safe distancing measures, while ambassadors help to guide businesses and individuals to comply with safe distancing measures.

Enforcement officers are not allowed and would never ask members of the public to pay fines on the spot, MEWR stressed, adding: "Members of the public are cautioned against handing over any cash or providing their bank account details to persons who claim to be enforcement officers."

Anyone found to have impersonated an enforcement officer will be subjected to police investigations. Those convicted of cheating by personation could be jailed up to five years and fined. Those convicted of personating a public servant also face a jail term of up to two years and a fine.

MEWR also highlighted the issue of enforcement officers, as well as SG Clean and safe distancing officers, being abused.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said in a Facebook post on Wednesday that he was upset to learn of criminal force being used against a number of officers on the frontline.

"(On Wednesday), an enforcement officer was slapped by a man who did not comply with safe distancing measures, and a safe distancing ambassador was punched by an errant member of the public when advised to wear his mask properly," he said.

"Let me state categorically that such behaviour is unacceptable. We will be taking action against these individuals and will not hesitate to do the same should there be other similar incidents."

Cases of physical or verbal abuse will be reported to the police for follow-up, MEWR said, and these cases will be considered separately from the principal offence that the Government will be charging the offender for.

Enforcement officers may also wear a red armband on top of existing identifiers. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER RESOURCES

Giving an update on enforcement efforts since the circuit breaker period kicked in on April 7, MEWR said that 3,000 enforcement officers, SG Clean and safe distancing ambassadors have been deployed daily to public spaces in Housing Board estates across Singapore to ensure elevated safe distancing measures are observed.

They come from almost 50 public agencies and include non-public servants recruited from the hospitality and aviation sectors, as well as volunteers recruited by the People's Association and other government agencies.

It is now mandatory for everyone to wear a mask when leaving their homes.

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From Thursday, those who do not wear masks in public will face a fine of $300 for the first offence, and $1,000 for the second offence. Egregious cases will also face prosecution in court. Such penalties are similar to breaches of other safe distancing measures.

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