Over 9,600 fines meted out in S'pore for Covid-19 breaches in past year

From April last year to the end of last month, more than 7,500 fines were issued to people who breached safe distancing rules.
From April last year to the end of last month, more than 7,500 fines were issued to people who breached safe distancing rules.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - More than 9,600 fines have been issued to individuals and companies for failing to adhere to Covid-19 rules in the past year, with the authorities warning that there will be no let-up in enforcement as more people return to workplaces on Monday (April 5) and other guidelines are relaxed.

From April last year to the end of last month, more than 7,500 fines were issued to people who breached safe distancing rules and safe management measures in public spaces.

Another 1,800 fines went to people who did not wear masks during the same period, said the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE), which coordinates safe distancing efforts among government agencies.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) inspected more than 38,000 workplaces for violations of safe management measures between last March and the end of last month, issuing fines to more than 300 companies.

Among them, close to 140 employers were ordered to cease operations for serious breaches, and were allowed to resume only after the breaches were rectified.

The latest enforcement figures were released by the authorities as Singapore marks on Wednesday one year since the start of the eight-week-long circuit breaker to stem the spread of Covid-19, and as more workers return to the office on Monday, with up to 75 per cent of employees who are able to work from home allowed back to the office.

A spokesman for MOM said it will continue to step up inspections of safe management measures at workplaces to ensure compliance with the latest rules.

From Monday, while mandatory split-team arrangements have been lifted, employers are urged to stagger working and break hours to reduce congregation of employees at all common spaces.

The MOM spokesman added that its inspectors will engage employers and employees to clarify the new safe management requirements, and guide companies on how to implement them properly.

Meanwhile, an MSE spokesman told The Straits Times last week that the number of safe distancing ambassadors and enforcement officers deployed may be increased based on the ground situation, and that agencies will continue to step up enforcement where necessary.

"Firm enforcement action will be taken against errant operators and individuals. This includes fines, suspension of operations even for first offences and prosecution for egregious breaches," he said.

Currently, about 3,000 safe distancing ambassadors and enforcement officers are deployed daily to remind members of the public and owners of premises to comply with safe distancing measures.

Bank associate Rayner Chua, who has spent most of the past year working from home, is among those who will return to the office more frequently from Monday.

"I can still interact with colleagues online, but part of communicating with others in person is non-verbal, and that aspect is missing when I work from home," said the 27-year-old.

"Being in the office is more than just work, it is also sharing experiences with colleagues. That adds a human touch and helps to build a social connection," he said, adding that he looks forward to meeting more team members with the lifting of split-team requirements.

Businesses can find updated information on the latest safe management requirements on MOM's website and the GoBusiness portal.

RETURNING TO WORKPLACES SAFELY

Capacity limits

• No more than 75 per cent of employees who are able to work from home should be at the workplace at any point

• Employers to support as many employees to work from home as possible

• No limit on the proportion of an employee's working time that can be spent at the workplace

Meetings

• Meetings to be conducted virtually as far as possible

• Schedule physical meetings after 10am to avoid peak-hour travel

• Stagger start work times such that at least half of the employees arrive at or after 10am

No cross-deployment

• No employee should work at more than one worksite, except for firms or industries where this is critical for operations

• If cross-deployment cannot be avoided, additional safeguards must be taken to minimise the risk of cross-infection

Social gatherings

• All social and recreational gatherings such as lunches and team-bonding activities within or outside the workplace must adhere to the limit of eight people

• All work-related events should not have meals as their main feature

• Employers should avoid holding events at mealtimes

Other recommendations

• Split-team arrangements will no longer be mandatory

• Employees encouraged to download and activate the TraceTogether app

• Appoint safe management officers to help in the implementation, coordination and monitoring of safe management measures