Coronavirus: Organisations to do more to maintain central services and businesses as containment measures affect manpower

Senior Minister of State for Transport, and Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary (right) observing the cleaning of bus interiors at Bedok Interchange on Feb 15, 2020. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - Organisations across all sectors will have to put in extra effort to keep central services and businesses going as leave of absence and five-day medical leave may affect manpower, said Senior Minister of State for Transport Janil Puthucheary on Saturday (Feb 15).

He added that corporations here have started to think through the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on their business continuity plans, which may include arrangements for employees to telecommute, work at split sites or in shifts.

Said Mr Janil: "This is not something that we can do without pulling together and putting in that extra effort.

"We have to understand that we do this to keep ourselves going and we are looking to make sure that we hold our society together."

Mr Janil was speaking to reporters at Bedok MRT station, where he observed public transport operators stepping up the cleaning of buses, trains and stations.

He noted that there has been no change in the quality of service provided by the train and bus operators despite the need to deploy more people for the increased cleaning required.

On Friday (Feb 14), the Ministry of Health advised doctors to give five days of sick leave to patients with respiratory symptoms, such as fever, cough, sore throat and runny nose, to try to prevent further community spread of the coronavirus.

When asked the reason for five days of medical leave, Mr Janil said it appears that most other illnesses that are not Covid-19, such as Influenza A, would have resolved on their own after five days.

"But if you're still unwell (after five days), whether you have Covid-19 or not, you should go and see your doctor. Because you now have a fever that's slightly prolonged and you need a repeat medical assessment," said Mr Janil.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Transport said that as of Monday (Feb 10), there were 37 public transport workers on leave of absence, 26 of whom are bus captains.

When asked whether five days of medical leave might affect children's ability to catch up on their school work, Mr Janil said a possible solution would be online student-learning spaces where the children can collaborate with classmates who are either in school or at home.

"In the last few years, we've put in quite a lot of effort to enable distance learning and online learning. This is not necessarily the be-all-and-end-all of education. But it allows a different model of operations, especially in difficult times like these," he said.

He added that solutions like these are needed to allow public healthcare intervention - such as the five-day medical leave - to happen alongside Singapore's aspiration to "keep everything going as usual".

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