Coronavirus: Some firms ferrying workers in lorries under MOM probe for not following safe distancing rules

A Ministry of Manpower officer checking the distance between workers ferried in a lorry during a multi-agency enforcement operation on April 14, 2020.
A Ministry of Manpower officer checking the distance between workers ferried in a lorry during a multi-agency enforcement operation on April 14, 2020.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
A Ministry of Manpower officer conducting a check during a multi-agency enforcement operation on April 14, 2020.
A Ministry of Manpower officer conducting a check during a multi-agency enforcement operation on April 14, 2020.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Some 30 companies in essential services are being investigated by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) for allegedly not complying with safe distancing measures when ferrying their workers in lorries, the MOM said on Tuesday (April 14).

This comes after stricter measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 kicked in on Monday requiring employers and lorry owners to review the maximum seating capacity of their vehicles, so that workers can maintain a safe distance of 1m from one another while seated.

As of 10am on Tuesday, 28 vehicles have been stopped and checked in an islandwide multi-agency enforcement operation by MOM, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and the Traffic Police.

Vehicles carrying workers are directed to a holding area and inspected by officers patrolling the roads on motorbikes.

The Straits Times saw about 10 vehicles pass through one such holding area in Soon Lee Road in Jurong during a 1.5-hour period on Tuesday morning. MOM officers used measuring tape to confirm if the vehicles were in violation of the 1m rule. Those guilty of such violation were required to adjust the seating capacity on the spot, which meant that some of the workers on board had to disembark.

Officers spoke to the respective employers over the phone, who then had to arrange for another vehicle to pick up the unfortunate workers in the holding area.

An employer who contravenes the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act 2020 faces a fine of up to $10,000 or a jail term of up to six months or both. The penalties are doubled for repeat offenders.

"We are seeing a mix (of good and bad). There are indeed very good practices on the ground, where the workers are spaced out 1m apart. But of course, there are some companies that probably need more time to implement some of these measures," said MOM's director of occupational safety and health specialist, Mr Ismadi Mohd.

He added: "We would like to reiterate that we take a very firm stance against anyone who disregards these safety measures. In the meantime, we will continue to sustain our enforcement efforts in the coming months and monitor the compliance rates closely."

 
 
 

MOM said the operation will continue throughout Singapore's circuit breaker period and advised employers to make provisions for additional trips or lorries where necessary.

Singapore reported an all-time high of 386 new Covid-19 cases on Monday, with foreign workers accounting for the vast majority of the 280 cases linked to previous clusters, the Ministry of Health said.