Many eager to go out; employers remind them to observe rules

The relief felt by the workers as the SHN ends is palpable, said employers. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Construction firm chief executive Hooi Yu Koh knows that his workers are "dying for some sunshine", after serving their month-long stay-home notices (SHN).

Since April 20, about 10 of his employees from Kori Holdings have been cooped up in company-provided accommodation under the mandatory SHN requirement by the Government that ended at 11.59pm yesterday.

Under the requirement, all work permit and S Pass holders in the construction sector, and their dependants, were put on four-week-long SHNs, as part of efforts to stem the spread of Covid-19 among construction workers living outside purpose-built dormitories.

The relief felt by the workers as the SHN ends is palpable, said employers. And while they are happy for their men to get some freedom, they have also reminded them to be responsible about the general circuit breaker rules.

"Going to the supermarket, going for haircuts, these are just some of the things they've been longing to do," said Mr Hooi, adding that he fully understands the eagerness to leave the apartment just for a change of environment.

"Some of the basic guidelines we give them is that they should stagger their trips so only one person from the apartment is out at any one time. We also remind them to wear masks and to head back as soon as they're done," he said.

Some 50 employees of Straits Construction have also been looking forward to the end of the SHN, said its group managing director and chief executive Wong Chee Herng.

The company has been in touch with the group, which includes workers from the Philippines, Myanmar and India, who mostly rent their own accommodation.

While they are eager to get out of their homes, Mr Wong believes they will be responsible about it.

"They know the stakes are high as they can get deported if they are found to break circuit breaker rules," he said.

The end of the SHN will also ease the burden for some employers who had to buy groceries or cater food for their workers. The owner of a small construction firm who wanted to be known only as Mr Mohammad said: "I'm glad the SHN lapsed because at least my men can have some independence to get their own meals."

He has 31 workers staying in hotels in Geylang and Balestier with some observing Ramadan.

"Caterers were not willing to supply meals for my workers because their numbers are low. So I was the one who had to deliver their food to break fast in the evenings and their morning meals. It was quite stressful," he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 19, 2020, with the headline Many eager to go out; employers remind them to observe rules. Subscribe