Ministry debunks claim about staff being hired to enforce 8-people CNY visiting rules

There are no plans to hire an additional 5,000 safe distancing ambassadors during the Chinese New Year period, said the MSE.
There are no plans to hire an additional 5,000 safe distancing ambassadors during the Chinese New Year period, said the MSE.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - An audio clip circulating on WhatsApp about people being hired to enforce household visit rules during Chinese New Year has been debunked by the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE).

"There is no such hiring exercise being conducted by agencies involved in the enforcement of safe distancing measures and safe management measures," said the MSE on Thursday (Jan 28).

Speaking in Hokkien, the woman in the clip alleged that 5,000 individuals are being engaged to check households for breaches of the eight-person visitor limit during Chinese New Year.

She also claimed that each person will be paid $15 an hour and will be visiting homes in several housing estates.

In response to the Straits Times’ queries, the MSE said: "Agencies have deployed safe distancing ambassadors (SDAs) since the circuit breaker in 2020, and have been hiring to replace attrition."

The ministry said the number of SDAs has remained constant and there are no plans to hire an additional 5,000 of them during the Chinese New Year period.

The Government has tightened rules on household visits ahead of Chinese New Year, in a pre-emptive move to minimise the number of social interactions and prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Besides limiting every household to eight unique visitors a day, individuals are encouraged to cap their visits at two households a day.

Enforcement officers will also do random spot checks to enforce the new rule on household visits, said Education Minister Lawrence Wong last week.

Mr Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force tackling the pandemic, had added that neighbours of those in breach of the rules may also contact the authorities.

But it is impossible to enforce rules on interactions that take place within a home, he had said.

People are encouraged to meet virtually rather than in person, and give electronic red packets instead.

On Thursday, the MSE said: "We urge everyone to follow the rules, do our part by being socially responsible, including during festive periods, to prevent a resurgence in community transmission and keep Singapore safe."