SINGAPORE - Taxi and private-hire car (PHC) drivers will not get an extension beyond a Feb 1 deadline to get fully vaccinated against Covid-19, despite an appeal by their associations.
But taxi operators have worked with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to allow drivers to suspend their contracts until they are fully vaccinated, said Senior Minister of State for Transport Amy Khor in a Facebook post on Thursday (Jan 13).
This would reduce the financial burden for drivers who need more time beyond Feb 1 to get fully vaccinated, she said. Drivers who have their contracts suspended do not have to pay rental fees during the suspension period.
More than 99 per cent of some 66,500 active taxi and PHC drivers are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, Dr Khor added. More than three in four of them have also received their booster shots.
Just over 300 medically eligible active drivers, or about 0.5 per cent of all active drivers, have yet to receive at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
The Government had announced in December that only workers who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 can return to the workplace from Feb 1. This rule applies to self-employed persons such as taxi and PHC drivers.
Last Friday, Ms Yeo Wan Ling, adviser to the National Taxi Association (NTA) and National Private Hire Vehicles Association (NPHVA), said the associations have asked for a longer notice period for drivers to get fully vaccinated.
Ms Yeo, an MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, 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.
Dr Khor said on Thursday that drivers come into contact with many people during the course of their work. The higher transmissibility of the Omicron variant makes it even more critical for medically eligible drivers to adhere to the vaccination requirement, she added.
"The workplace vaccination measures have been put in place for all workers, including the self-employed in Singapore, to keep them as well as their loved ones and the community safe," said Dr Khor.
"Extending the timeline for our unvaccinated taxi and PHC drivers would, in fact, be putting them at greater health risk."
Dr Khor said she has met the advisers and representatives of both the NTA and NPHVA to discuss their concerns. She also told them that for drivers who have taken at least one shot of the vaccine, there is a grace period until Jan 31 for them to complete their vaccination regime.
During this grace period, the drivers will be able to continue to drive, as long as they have a daily negative pre-event test result from an approved Covid-19 test provider.
Dr Khor also said the authorities will work with unions and operators to contact 300 drivers who remain unvaccinated, and encourage them to get vaccinated.
"We urge all medically eligible drivers who are still unvaccinated to get your shots as soon as possible," she said.
"If any of these drivers need assistance to comply with the workplace vaccination measures, they can approach their associations or LTA, and we will see how we can assist them on a case-by-case basis."
In a Facebook post on Thursday afternoon, Ms Yeo said she is thankful that taxi operators will allow drivers to suspend their contracts until they are fully vaccinated.
“I also call on private-hire vehicle rental companies to extend the same support as taxi operators to private-hire vehicle drivers,” she added.