SINGAPORE - Current measures to protect taxi and private-hire drivers ferrying possible Covid-19-positive patients are sufficient, and there is no need for them to don full personal protective equipment, said Senior Minister of State for Transport Amy Khor on Wednesday (Nov 3).
She was responding to Ms Yeo Wan Ling (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) and Mr Liang Eng Hwa (Bukit Panjang) on the adequacy of measures taken to protect point-to-point drivers, given new protocols that advise patients waiting for their polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test results to take private transport home.
Patients should inform their drivers about their health status, Dr Khor said.
Drivers have been advised to switch off the air-conditioner, wind down the windows during and after each trip, as well as clean their vehicles after the trips, she said.
Passengers should also sit in the back, in the seat diagonal from the driver's, she added.
"The Ministry of Health (MOH) has assessed that these measures are sufficient to minimise the risk of in-vehicle transmission of the virus, and there is no need for extra precautionary measures such as having drivers put on full personal protective equipment," she added.
Furthermore, about 98 per cent of taxi drivers are fully vaccinated.
MOH has put this information up on its website in the frequently asked questions on health protocols.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) is also working with the taxi and private-hire operators and associations to publicise this message to the drivers as well as passengers, to remind passengers to declare their health status so that drivers can take action, and also to remind drivers of the additional precautions they can take.
"We are also working with the operators to see if we can craft a message that can be printed out and the drivers can opt to display in their vehicles to remind the passengers. So this is what we are doing to give assurance to the drivers," added Dr Khor.
Support has also been given to drivers.
All the taxi operators provide rental waivers for the drivers who cannot drive because of contracting Covid-19 or having to self-isolate. Private-hire operators Grab and Gojek also provide prolonged medical leave insurance coverage for their drivers, and this involves financial payouts if they are unable to drive because of these reasons.
Drivers who contract Covid-19 as a result of providing services in a heightened Covid-19 situation, such as by ferrying an antigen rapid test-positive person for his PCR test, can apply for a one-time relief of $3,000 through The Courage Fund that is administered by the National Council of Social Service.
The Courage Fund supports vulnerable individuals and groups such as patients, healthcare workers and members of the community affected by serious infectious diseases.