Associations seek to extend Jan 31 deadline for taxi, private-hire drivers to be fully vaccinated

From Feb 1, only fully vaccinated taxi and private-hire drivers will be allowed to ferry passengers. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - From Feb 1, only fully vaccinated taxi and private-hire drivers will be allowed to ferry passengers, even as their associations seek a longer notice period for drivers to fulfil the latest requirement.

Ms Yeo Wan Ling, adviser to the National Taxi Association and National Private Hire Vehicles Association, said unvaccinated drivers have expressed concerns about not being able to get fully vaccinated in time, which means a loss of income while they still need to pay for expenses like vehicle rental fees.

"We have raised these concerns to the Government and asked that the same notice period that was given to the employed also be given to our self-employed and freelancers," she wrote in a Facebook post on Friday night (Jan 7).

She noted that this will give drivers sufficient time to make vaccination plans or seek other forms of work.

The MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC told The Straits Times on Sunday that the associations hope to extend the deadline by at least two months.

"It's about giving drivers ample time as it takes more than a month to get the fully vaccinated status. We are also seeing whether we can get priority vaccinations for drivers who need to get vaccinated," she said.

The Government announced on Dec 27 that only workers who are fully vaccinated, certified medically ineligible for vaccines, or have recovered from Covid-19 within the past 180 days may return to the workplace.

A Land Transport Authority spokesman noted that this includes self-employed people such as taxi and private-hire car drivers.

"We will continue to encourage taxi and private-hire car drivers who are medically eligible but have yet to complete their vaccinations to do so as soon as possible," the spokesman told ST on Sunday.

Over 99 per cent of Singapore's point-to-point driver population is fully vaccinated. There were more than 145,000 taxi and private-hire licence holders as at September, according to LTA data. This translates to over 1,000 of such licence holders who are not fully vaccinated.

In contrast, the requirement was announced for employed workers on Oct 23. The rule then was that from Jan 1, staff who return to the workplace must be fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 in the past 270 days.

This meant that unvaccinated people needed to test negative for Covid-19 before they could return to the workplace.

But the authorities said in December that this concession will be removed from Jan 15, with partially vaccinated workers granted a grace period until Jan 31 to complete their vaccination regime.

Ms Yeo said in her Facebook post that most taxi operators will waive the penalty for premature termination of contracts if drivers are unvaccinated: "We urge other platform operators to consider similar measures to help affected drivers."

She told ST that operators are also helping by lowering rental fees for drivers affected by the latest requirement.

She added that many drivers are going for their booster shots: "Our drivers have also been diligent in observing good hygiene practices so that commuters are kept safe."

All taxi and private-hire drivers currently need to undergo weekly Covid-19 testing - a requirement LTA announced in October. For practical reasons, drivers are provided with antigen rapid test kits and are allowed to self-test at their convenience.

A Gojek spokesman said the ride-hailing company is working closely with the Government and other stakeholders to help its drivers adhere to the latest vaccination measures.

He added: "We continue to remind our driver-partners to remain vigilant, observe good hygiene practices and help to ensure a safe environment for both drivers and riders."

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