Coronavirus: Shields being considered on public buses to protect drivers and commuters

The transparent shield, similar to acrylic glass or Perspex, is said to offer protection for both commuters and the drivers. PHOTO: NATIONAL TRANSPORT WORKERS' UNION

SINGAPORE - Commuters on board buses may soon find themselves separated from drivers by a transparent shield as new initiatives are being explored to ensure safe distancing on buses when the economy gradually reopens.

The transparent shield, similar to acrylic glass or Perspex, is said to offer protection for both commuters and the drivers as more people rely on public transport to return to work.

With Singapore exiting the circuit breaker period after June 1, there is a need to manage the anticipated increase in daily public transport ridership, wrote NTUC assistant secretary-general Melvin Yong in a blog post on Saturday (May 23).

Mr Yong said another initiative for bus workers is to have separators installed in canteens where they eat, which will allow more drivers and other transport workers to dine safely during their breaks.

Yet the issue of safe distancing on MRT trains and buses still remains a challenge, said Mr Yong.

"While there are currently safe distancing stickers placed on MRT and bus seats, we have to expect that they might not work well once the vehicle gets crowded during peak hours. Some bus captains have feedback that they are concerned that it will be challenging to manage commuters' expectations and safe distancing measures, while having to focus on driving at the same time.

"I hope the Land Transport Authority can look into this issue and assess if the stickers are still relevant," wrote Mr Yong who is also the National Transport Workers' Union executive secretary.

He noted that a more practical approach would be for employers to stagger working hours, and allow telecommuting whenever possible to reduce the peak hour crowds, as well as the risk of a second wave of Covid-19 cases in the community.

These initiatives are being discussed on top of the current measures, which include bus captains being provided with masks, face shields and sanitisers as well as enhanced cleaning measures.

New initiatives like separate seating at staff canteens are being discussed for the public transport sector. PHOTO: NATIONAL TRANSPORT WORKERS' UNION

Last week, taxi giant ComfortDelGro Corp said it will fit 400 of its 10,000 cabs with plastic shields which separate the driver from passengers under a trial.

As the economy reopens, Mr Yong said commuters should also expect the guidelines for travelling on public transport to evolve with the changing circumstances.

"I hope that commuters will be patient and follow the instructions from our public transport workers to ensure a safe commute for all. Let us continue to stay united as a nation and show our support to our front-line transport workers," he added.

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