Wuhan virus: Bus, train services unaffected by small number of drivers on leave of absence

The Land Transport Authority said public transport operations are unaffected by the move, as "a very small number" is affected. The sector employs around 10,000 drivers and other frontline staff. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - About two dozen front-line public transport workers here are on a 14-day leave of absence to minimise the risk of spreading the Wuhan virus.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, the Land Transport Authority said this involved "fewer than 30" workers. It would not give the exact number.

They had travelled to places in China - where the coronavirus outbreak started - over the Chinese New Year period.

An LTA spokesman said: "Since Jan 23, all our public transport operators have taken the initiative to not deploy staff who have travelled to these places for front-line duties within 14 days of their return to Singapore."

These workers are from bus and train operators SBS Transit and SMRT, as well as bus companies Tower Transit and Go Ahead.

The spokesman added: "Following the advisory from the Ministry of Manpower on Jan 28, employees who have returned to Singapore from mainland China in the last 14 days are also given paid leave of absence in instances where flexible or alternate work arrangements are not possible."

The LTA said public transport operations are unaffected by the move, as "a very small number" is affected. The sector employs around 10,000 drivers and other front-line staff.

"We will continue to adapt our response to the Wuhan virus situation, in line with guidance from the Ministry of Health and the Multi-Ministerial Taskforce," the LTA added.

Meanwhile, SBS Transit's parent group ComfortDelGro Corp said on Thursday (Jan 30) its operations in China have begun feeling the impact of the epidemic.

In a statement, ComfortDelGro - which operates in nine cities in China - said its driving centre in Nanjing has closed. Located about 530km away from Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, Nanjing ComfortDelGro Xixia Driver Training Co had been instructed by the authorities to suspend all operations from Tuesday (Jan 28) as a precautionary measure.

The group said this 60-per-cent-owned subsidiary has about 600 students enrolled.

Its 60-per-cent-owned bus station in Guangzhou, Tianhe Bus Station, has seen a 15 per cent drop in bus trips over the Chinese New Year period compared with the same period last year.

Cabbies have also been reporting a drop in patronage. ComfortDelGro operates taxi services in Beijing, Jilin, Shenyang, Chengdu, Shanghai, Suzhou, Nanjing and Nanning - with a fleet of 11,000.

The group said it has provided staff and cabbies with masks and disinfectants, stepped up cleaning and disinfecting schedules, as well as established a contact-tracing system.

In Australia and the United Kingdom, where the group also operates bus and taxi services, "the situation has remained stable, although stepped-up precautions too have been taken".

ComfortDelGro chief executive Yang Ban Seng said: "The situation remains very fluid and we are monitoring it very closely. All our businesses stand prepared to activate business continuity plans where needed.

"We are also increasing our stockpile of masks, disinfectants and gloves and are ready to distribute them to affected staff and cabbies at a moment's notice.

"In particular, we are lending support to our staff and cabbies in China who are under tremendous stress. Thankfully, we have, thus far, not seen any confirmed cases in our stable of companies."

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