Coronavirus: Motor workshops to do only emergency repairs until May 4

The Ministry of Trade and Industry said routine servicing and cosmetic-related works are not allowed during this period. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Motor workshops must apply for permission to stay open between Tuesday (April 7) and May 4, and they are to carry out only emergency repairs.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said routine servicing and cosmetic-related works are not allowed during this period.

"Towing, recovery and repair of vehicles that have broken down or which have been damaged in an accident and require repair are examples of permissible vehicle services," an MTI spokesman said.

She said vehicle workshops that provide vehicle recovery and repair services for emergency cases will be allowed to continue operating.

"This is necessary to ensure that essential firms and workers in essential services who rely on their vehicles for transport and delivery are able to have their vehicles recovered and repaired in the event of a breakdown, accident or other emergency," she clarified.

Vehicle workshops that continue to operate are required to submit details of their operations and manpower requirements at the GoBusiness Covid site by next Monday for review, the MTI added.

And businesses that are allowed to remain open must implement enhanced safe distancing measures to reduce physical interactions.

"We urge all businesses to play their part in the fight against Covid-19," the MTI said.

Motor workshop operators were confused initially by the phrase "emergency vehicle services" found on the GoBusiness Covid site.

"Do they mean emergency vehicles like ambulances, or do they mean emergency services for vehicles," one asked.

The Singapore Motor Workshop Association (SMWA), which has more than 700 members out of almost 2,000 workshops here, informed member companies on Sunday that those which "provide vehicle recover and repair services" are part of essential services allowed to continue operating during this "circuit breaker" month.

Mr Francis Lim, managing director of BCC Automotive, and the immediate past president of the SMWA, said he has closed three out of his four workshops.

"Only our headquarters site in Sin Ming remains open to service customers who are in the essential services sector," Mr Lim said. "And out of 20-plus workers, we're down to three."

Mr Joey Lim, managing director of Harmony Motor, said he is keeping both his workshops open, as his Malaysian workers have been living on the workshop premises since Malaysia's restricted movement order was implemented.

"But it's a ghost town," Mr Lim said. "This morning, there was only one car at each location."

While he has given his staff "strict instructions" to put on masks, use hand sanitiser, turn away cars with more than one occupant, and sanitise vehicles before and after repairs, Mr Lim said it is sometimes "very hard to say what is an emergency".

"Customers will come in saying there is vibration or loss of power, or that the engine is overheating," he said. "The situation is fluid, and we often have to make judgment calls."

Elsewhere, transport group ComfortDelGro, which has six motor workshops, said it has closed one (in Sungei Kadut) and restricted another (in Loyang) to only taxis.

Also, authorised car agents are keeping their workshops open, but with smaller crews attending to only emergency cases.

Most do not accept walk-in arrangements, and customers have to make appointments for available slots. Roadside assistance is still available.

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