No screeners soon as public places in S'pore cease temperature checks

A temperature detection device screens shoppers during safe entry measures in PLQ Mall in February 2021.
A temperature detection device screens shoppers during safe entry measures in PLQ Mall in February 2021.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - The Health Ministry announced last week that temperature screening will no longer be a requirement in public places from this Thursday.

And with more people getting vaccinated, job employment agencies are also seeing less demand for temperature screener positions.

But temperature screeners told The Sunday Times they are confident they will still have a job and be deployed in some other capacity.

A spokesman for Frasers Property Retail said all 14 malls it manages will stop conducting temperature screening for visitors from Aug 19, but staff will continue to be deployed to facilitate contact tracing requirements.

The Sunday Times understands that screeners at the 17 malls managed by Far East Organization will also be retained to ensure shoppers, employees and tenants comply with TraceTogether check-ins.

Temporary jobs such as temperature screening had opened up in the public and private sectors when the pandemic hit last year.

In a written answer to a parliamentary question, Minister for Manpower Tan See Leng said on Aug 4 that more than 15,000 workers have been placed into public sector or government-funded short-term Covid-19 roles since the start of the pandemic.

Such roles include swabbing or quarantine operations, implementing safe management measures, and providing patient services.

Dr Tan said that while the demand for workers in temporary Covid-19 roles will taper down at some point, they remain in demand for the time being.

Mr Joseph Khor, operation director at JobStudio, said demand for screeners had been falling as more people get vaccinated. His firm now has about 300 screeners at healthcare institutions across the island, down from 400 at the peak of their deployment around March last year.

Mr Khor added: "The virus is no longer an unknown enemy, and as the road map to recovery becomes clearer, temperature screening will not be as crucial for our clients."

A spokesman for recruitment firm Good Job Creations, which has some 170 screeners in the retail, healthcare, and hospitality sectors, said it has had fewer projects for temperature-screening services this year.

Mr Dennis Tay, 54, a chef of 25 years, started working as a temperature screener at Northpoint City in June. He performs about three 12-hour shifts each week, and earns around $1,200 a month.

He said: "Our job scope is not just to check the temperature of visitors. We must see if they check in on TraceTogether, and I think - at least for the next year or so - companies will still need us to do this."

A screener, 22, stationed in a mall in the Central Business District, was pessimistic about his future job prospects.

Wanting to be known only as Rex, he said: "If there is no temperature screening, and if there are new automated ways to check if TraceTogether is done, I'm worried we might not be needed any more."

Mr Khor said other job opportunities may be created as Singapore reopens, such as in the Mice (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) sector, where ushers and ticketing staff will be needed.

To match released workers with new jobs, Mr Gilbert Tan, chief executive officer of the National Trades Union Congress' (NTUC) Employment and Employability Institute (e2i), said the NTUC Job Security Council works with industry partners and creates a network of companies that are hiring and releasing workers.

A spokesman for the Public Service Division said most workers who were temporarily redeployed to support Covid-19 operations are expected to return to their parent companies when the economy recovers.

He added: "For the remaining workers, the Government job-matching services and ecosystem can help them if they are seeking employment opportunities. The SGUnited Traineeships, Mid-Career Pathways and Skills programmes also remain available."