Coronavirus: 45 buses move up to 600 patients daily; fleet size to be expanded to 60

SMRT worked with a few other organisations to modify 20 buses to specially transfer Covid-19 patients.
SMRT worked with a few other organisations to modify 20 buses to specially transfer Covid-19 patients.PHOTO: SMRT

SINGAPORE - About 45 buses have now been deployed to transport up to 600 Covid-19 patients daily.

And the fleet is set to be expanded to 60 in the coming weeks.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Wednesday (May 13) that these buses have been taking the patients from hospitals and foreign worker dormitories to community care facilities, such as the Singapore Expo.

Such facilities care for patients who are either clinically well and no longer require acute care or newly confirmed cases with mild symptoms who do not require extensive medical treatment.

The buses ferrying the patients are arranged by MOH, the Singapore Armed Forces and the Singapore Civil Defence Force.

MOH said the buses currently transporting an estimated 400 to 600 Covid-19 patients daily are contracted from Lentor Ambulance and other commercial operators.

Five of the buses come from public transport operator SMRT. The operator worked with a few other organisations to modify 20 buses to specially transfer Covid-19 patients.

MOH said: "The rest of SMRT's retrofitted buses will be progressively deployed over the coming weeks to join the current fleet in transporting patients.

"All these bus drivers are trained in the proper use of personal protective equipment and required decontamination procedures of the buses to ensure the safety of passengers and driver."

At a virtual media event showcasing the modified buses on Tuesday, SMRT said the vehicles are designed to reduce the risk of infection for the drivers.

The driver and passengers are located in two compartments separated by an air-tight divider. Each compartment has its own air-conditioning system. In addition, the passengers' compartment is equipped with a negative pressure system.

 
 
 

This means that air can enter the compartment but cannot escape except through the system. The system is equipped with a high-efficiency particulate air filter, which cleans the air from the bus before releasing it.

SMRT worked with Temasek Foundation, engineering firm Hope Technik and Sheares Healthcare on the initiative.

SMRT Roads president Tan Kian Heong said: "The buses are from the operational spare pool, so we have taken out these buses without affecting the public transport bus services.

"We have chosen relatively new buses to make sure that the reliability is not a concern when deployed on the road," he added.

When asked whether the organisations involved will look into selling the buses overseas, a Temasek International spokesman said such a decision would depend on local and overseas demand.