All bus interchange Covid-19 clusters closed, 99% of public transport front-line workers vaccinated: LTA

SINGAPORE - All eight bus interchange Covid-19 clusters have been closed, with the last cluster at Tampines Bus Interchange having closed on Oct 15, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said on Tuesday night (Oct 19).

This was around two months after the first two clusters involving bus interchanges, at Bishan and Sengkang, were announced on Aug 14.

By Sept 7, a total of 537 cases had been linked to eight interchanges across the island, and on Sept 10, LTA said that commuters should be prepared to wait longer for some buses, as a few hundred drivers were down with the virus, or placed under quarantine or stay-home notice.

On Tuesday, LTA's spokesman told The Straits Times that as at Oct 16, about 99 per cent of public transport front-line workers had been fully vaccinated, while a total of 49 bus drivers from the various interchanges were still recovering from the virus.

They comprised 14 drivers from Tampines bus interchange, one from Boon Lay, four from Jurong East, eight from Clementi, six from Toa Payoh, nine from Punggol, five from Sengkang and two from Bishan.

The spokesman added that the waiting times for most of the bus services had been maintained, without significant impact to commuters.

Earlier in September, Transport Minister S. Iswaran said there was no evidence of the clusters resulting in the virus spreading to commuters, while Singapore's director of medical services Kenneth Mak said the clusters were likely to be the result of workplace transmission.

Associate Professor Mak added that the spread could have taken place due to mask-off interactions during rest periods at the bus interchanges, but he also noted that given the high number of community cases at the time, the infection could have been introduced from the community.

To minimise the spread, LTA put in place stricter restrictions on staff resting and dining areas at bus interchanges on Sept 2, such as allowing only one staff member to sit at each table to dine, and limiting the number of those without masks at any point in time.

At the time, LTA's chief executive Ng Lang said: "We have to strike a balance between the welfare of workers and stepping up more measures... For instance, the rule on vaccinated drivers eating alone is more stringent than on the general public. It is not an easy decision, but it is necessary."