Front-line workers keep Singapore going

Coronavirus: Food delivery rider takes no chances, carries bottle of soap to wash her hands regularly

How has life been for front-line workers since the coronavirus outbreak? The Straits Times talks to them on how they go about their work despite the high risk of infection.

Food delivery rider Joanne Lee carries a bottle of soap and hand sanitizer that she uses whenever she delivers food on her shift. PHOTO: JOANNE LEE

SINGAPORE - While some might find carrying a bottle of soap around for the whole day extreme, food delivery rider for Foodpanda Joanne Lee is not taking any chances.

The 44-year-old washes her hands with soap from her small 5ml bottle any chance she gets, like when she enters a shopping mall or when she heads to a restaurant to pick up orders.

Besides the bottle of soap, which she refills daily after her seven-hour shift, Miss Lee also sanitises her hands each time after she handles cash from customers.

All these are habits she previously never practised, but Miss Lee told The Straits Times that her constant exposure to people in different crowded places could put her at a higher level of risk of getting infected with the coronavirus.

She added that her job takes her to all sorts of places - including places where sick people might potentially be, like near clinics, in crowded shopping malls or past busy bus stops.

"It's a challenge that comes with my job, I do not know where I might end up in or who I might be exposed to. There is no need to avoid any place or any one, but I'm just doing all these to take care of myself," she said.

In addition to the soap and sanitiser, Miss Lee also carries face masks provided by Foodpanda and wet wipes that she bought.

Foodpanda Singapore managing director Luc Andreani said all Foodpanda riders can collect face masks and hand sanitisers from its rider hub, and the company encourages all its riders to use them.

These items are stowed in a small bag in the front basket of Miss Lee's electronic-bicycle, which she uses to make her deliveries.

Miss Lee, who has been delivering food for three years, started her hygiene practices during the Chinese New Year period, when the coronavirus situation in Singapore was getting more serious.

The Government's move to raise the disease outbreak response to orange on Feb 7 might have made some people more anxious, but Miss Lee said there is a silver lining - people are ordering food more than ever.

Since the announcement of Code Orange, she has been getting more than twice the usual orders to deliver - which she attributes to people's reluctance to go out to eat.

"I think people are now a bit more afraid of going to public places, especially parents with children, so they will just order their meals through platforms like Foodpanda," she said.

Her family does worry about her health, but Miss Lee said that as long as she continues to be careful and keeps to her hygiene practices, there is no reason to stop delivering food.

Life needs to go on, she stressed, and if frontline medical workers can continue their work despite the risks, there is no reason why she should stop.

"We need to give each other all the support we can and do our best. All of us are living in this small dot that we call home, and what we can do is help one another and be more positive," she said.

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