Coronavirus: Cleaning stepped up in public housing estates in Singapore

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Cleaners cleaning the lift, playground and railings at the barrier-free ramp in Tampines on Feb 5, 2020.

SINGAPORE - Town councils have stepped up cleaning of public areas in a bid to prevent widespread transmission of the coronavirus that originated in Wuhan.

Lift buttons are being cleaned thrice a day with disinfectant, and so are other high-traffic areas and touchpoints such as playgrounds, fitness corners, railings and benches.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) issued an advisory on these heightened precautionary measures on sanitation and hygiene to all town councils on Jan 29.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said on Wednesday (Feb 5) that the current situation has warranted ramping up hygiene regimens, and cautioned the public not to be swayed by fears that they should avoid areas visited by infected persons.

"We have gone out to assure the public that immediately, once we know that there is a case, NEA will supervise the owners of premises to make sure the place is properly disinfected and it is safe for the public to go to," he said.

His comments came as the Government disclosed details on Tuesday (Feb 4) about the first four cases of local transmission. So far, 24 cases of the coronavirus have been reported in Singapore.

Mr Masagos was speaking to reporters at a HDB estate in Tampines West, after he inspected workers cleaning lift buttons, railings and playground equipment with disinfectant.

Previously these areas were cleaned only once a day, and only with soap and water.

The estate's cleaners have also been made to wear gloves and told to sanitise their hands after finishing their cleaning work.

Cleaner, Madam Ling Li, 70, cleaning the buttons inside the lift at Blk 890C Tampines Ave 1, on Feb 05, 2020. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

"Because of this current situation it is perhaps more prudent, and also for public assurance that we step up this cleaning. We think we have to keep this up until such time that MOH gives us the clear...This is one of the ways to prevent community spread," he said.

Outside of mainland China, Singapore is one of the most affected by the outbreak of the virus, which was first reported late last year in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

The Republic has been taking measures to limit the risk of imported cases and the spread of the pathogen within the community, imposing restrictions on travellers from mainland China, and requiring those with a travel history to mainland China to be put on a leave of absence.

Madam Sally Lim, who supervises some 50 cleaners in charge of cleaning 138 HDB blocks in Tampines West, said residents felt more at ease with the heightened measures in place.

"They are more assured when they see us cleaning. After all, this estate has a lot of children and elderly people," said Madam Lim, 60.

Retiree Simon Zhao, 72, who has lived in Tampines for over 20 years, said: "Especially for us older folks, our health is not so good, so we feel safer with this."

But Mr Masagos also stressed that the public needed to play their part in the fight against the coronavirus.

"What it leaves us to do now is to step up our own hygiene habits. Let's be a First World people and keep this up not only for the purposes of the crisis, but also to make sure that Singapore is the kind of place where everyone practices good hygiene habits," he said.


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