120 bus drivers across seven interchanges infected with Covid-19 so far: LTA

Of the 120 infected bus drivers, four were unvaccinated. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

SINGAPORE - A total of 120 bus drivers have been infected with Covid-19 so far, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA) which is working with public transport operators to minimise the impact on services.

This is about 1.3 per cent of the 9,500 bus captains here.

The number of clusters involving bus interchanges has grown to seven after the first two - at Bishan and Sengkang - were announced on Aug 14.

An LTA spokesman told The Straits Times on Monday (Aug 30) that there are currently 23 infected bus drivers in the Bishan cluster and 14 in the Sengkang cluster.

Two new clusters - identified on Aug 26 - currently involve 33 bus drivers at Toa Payoh interchange, and 13 at Punggol interchange.

Another three clusters - announced over the last three days - currently involve nine bus drivers in Clementi interchange, 15 in Jurong East interchange and 13 in Boon Lay interchange.

According to the Ministry of Health website, another 54 cases - staff from these interchanges and their contacts - are also linked to the seven clusters.

The LTA spokesman said many of the cases were picked up early and clusters isolated as a result of community surveillance testing and proactive regular testing.

Of the 120 infected bus drivers, four were unvaccinated.

The rest are fully inoculated, and most are asymptomatic or showing only mild symptoms.

Overall, 99 per cent of front-line public transport workers have completed their first dose of a vaccine, and more than 95 per cent are fully inoculated, said the spokesman.

Asked what is being done to ensure commuter safety at bus interchanges, he said: "Once a cluster at a public transport node is detected, deep cleaning and disinfection are carried out at the location as well as on all affected buses and common facilities. This is in addition to the stepped-up cleaning regime that operators have put in place since last year."

Safe management measures are also strictly enforced, and in the light of the recent developments, workers will have to take their meals and smoke breaks alone even if they are fully vaccinated, said the spokesman.

He added that the authorities are monitoring the situation closely and will work with the operators to make further adjustments where necessary.

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Professor Paul Tambyah, senior consultant at the National University Hospital's Division of Infectious Diseases, said the clusters are a "slight cause for concern" at the moment as the mode of transmission is still unknown, and there are substantial numbers of unvaccinated seniors in the community.

But he also noted that there are approximately 25 to 30 bus interchanges in Singapore and about that many bus terminals.

"Together, that is less than half the number of wet markets so in the worst-case scenario, even if we are unable to figure out how these clusters are arising, the number of cases is still unlikely to be more than the number infected in the markets linked to the (Jurong) fishery port," he said, adding that the next few days will be crucial in allowing experts to estimate the potential size of the clusters associated with the bus interchanges.

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