Supervisor who dons full PPE to disinfect places visited by Covid-19 cases praised as 'unsung hero'

Despite being a supervisor, Mr Lok Chun Kiet chose to help with the disinfection himself. PHOTOS: CBM

SINGAPORE - With his disposable gown, gloves, shoe cover, face shield and a hood over his head, Mr Lok Chun Kiet might be mistaken for a scientist handling biohazardous materials.

But the 28-year-old does not work in a laboratory - he often has to disinfect areas visited by Covid-19 cases, including toilets.

The senior operations executive at facilities management company CBM was named by Finance Minister Lawrence Wong in his ministerial statement on Monday (July 26) as one of the "unsung heroes" keeping the coronavirus at bay here.

"It's because of people like Chun Kiet and his team that we are able to quickly deep-clean our infected premises, and minimise the risk of fomite transmission," Mr Wong told Parliament.

Fomite transmissions occur when an individual is infected by coming into contact with contaminated surfaces and objects.

Mr Lok told The Straits Times that when the pandemic first hit Singapore's shores, he, like many others here, was initially afraid.

But when his company's management called for volunteers to carry out disinfection services at sites visited by Covid-19 infected patients, he stepped forward.

"I believe someone must step up to do this to keep our environment safe and clean," said Mr Lok.

Despite being a supervisor, Mr Lok chose to help with the disinfection himself, to motivate his staff and encourage them to keep doing their jobs.

"During this pandemic period, everyone wants to stay at home. But as cleaners, we are frontline workers - so we need to convince our staff to stay in their positions to work on site," he said.

So aside from his other responsibilities, which include managing and coordinating cleaning on project sites, Mr Lok now dons a full set of personal protective equipment (PPE) about once a week to carry out disinfection works, which can take about three to four hours each time.

At the peak of the pandemic, during the circuit breaker last year, he had to do this about three to four times a week while balancing his other responsibilities.

"It's very hot when you wear the full PPE - you cannot drink water, cannot go to the toilet (unless it's very urgent). It's quite tough for us to carry out the disinfection," he said.

He admitted that at first he was afraid of getting infected. But he reassured himself that the safety protocols put in place and the PPE would protect him, and tried to set a good example for the staff under his care.

Mr Lok lives with his parents who are in their 50s. Both are vaccinated.

He has received one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine so far, and has to undergo Covid-19 testing every 14 days.

As an added precaution, he avoids meeting people for three days after every disinfection job.

"It's a high-risk job which not many people want to do, but we need to step up to ensure our community is safe," he said.

Another frontliner, senior medical technologist Siti Zulaina Md Said, was also commended in Mr Wong's speech.

Senior medical technologist Siti Zulaina Md Said leads a team at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases' National Public Health Laboratory. PHOTO: NCID

Ms Siti leads a team at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases' National Public Health Laboratory, which investigates outbreaks to enable early ring-fencing of clusters. She works long hours in shifts that stretches into weekends and public holidays.

"We were fatigued but knew that we had to press on. We always strive to give our best knowing the importance of our timely and accurate results to the management of the pandemic in Singapore," said Ms Siti.

Praising the pair and others like them on Monday, Mr Wong said: "There are many more... unsung heroes and heroines quietly and steadfastly contributing to our fight against Covid-19... These actions of our fellow Singaporeans inspire us, and give us confidence and hope that we will get through this together."

Mr Lok said he did not know Mr Wong would mention him in his speech until mid-afternoon on Monday.

He added: "I was quite surprised - I feel very proud and positive. I hope it can encourage other people in this line - that the Government knows it's not just doctors, but cleaners too who are doing things during this period."

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