COVID-19: SG Clean Taskforce set up to ensure long-term hygiene standards

Amir Hussain
Senior Reporter

SINGAPORE, SINGAPORE - FEBRUARY 28: A maintainance worker wearing a mask walks past the Central Business District on February 28, 2020 in Singapore. The coronavirus, originating in Wuhan, China has spread to over 80,000 people globally, more than 50 countries have now been infected. (Photo by Ore Huiying/Getty Images)

SINGAPORE – In order to build upon a culture of keeping clean in Singapore, beyond the current COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, the government has set up the SG Clean Taskforce.

In a press conference to announce it, taskforce chair and Minister for the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) Masagos Zulkifli said its purpose is to “galvanise a whole-of-nation effort to raise standards of cleanliness and public hygiene in Singapore”.

“We don’t know how long COVID-19 will last. But we are entering a new situation, a new normal,” Masagos said. “This must be where we enhance public hygiene and keeping clean environments become an integral part of our lives.”

Set up under the purview of the Multi-Ministry Taskforce on COVID-19 (MTF), the taskforce’s members include Minister for Social and Family Development, and Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee; Senior Minister of State for Health, and the Environment and Water Resources Dr Amy Khor; Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information, and Transport Dr Janil Puthucheary; Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Manpower, and Mayor of South West District Low Yen Ling; and Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth, and Transport Baey Yam Keng.

As part of an SG Clean campaign, announced by Masagos earlier on 16 February, an SG Clean quality mark will be introduced. This will serve as a premise-based sanitation and hygiene indicator as it requires organisations to commit to sector-specific sanitation and hygiene checklists.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Singapore Food Agency have been working with hawker centres and coffee shops to be part of the certification programme. To date, some 1,907 hawker and market stalls, and 345 coffee shop stalls have been awarded the SG Clean quality mark. Some 13 hawker centres and 49 coffee shops also have the mark.

The NEA is working with other agencies to implement the programme. Overall, it aims to roll out the SG Clean certification programme to premises with high human traffic and more vulnerable segments of society by the end of the year.

Legislation changes

The MEWR will also make amendments to the Environmental Public Health Act later this year. Mandatory cleaning standards will be introduced.

These include a regime for pro-active routine cleaning and disinfection at prescribed frequencies. The standards for public cleanliness include frequency of cleaning and disinfection of high contact areas, in particular toilets, and pest management, including mosquito control regime.

There will also be greater accountability placed on premise managers for the cleanliness of their premises. Among others, they will be required to appoint a trained “Designated Person” to assist them to develop and implement an environmental sanitation programme.

This regime will be progressively implemented from 2021, starting with higher-risk venues with high footfall and immuno-vulnerable occupants, such as preschools, schools, eldercare facilities and hawker centres

Everyone can do their part

To help prevent community spread of the coronavirus, Singaporeans have been heeding the government’s call to take personal responsibility and as such, some adjustments to social norms had to be made. Many, for example, have refrained from shaking hands during this period.

The Taskforce will further encourage the good habits practised during this period to be continually adopted and made a way of life, Masagos said.

These include using serving spoons when sharing food, eating from trays and returning them in public dining places and keeping tables clean. Workers should also stay away from the office if they are not feeling well.

Said Minister Lawrence Wong, co-chair of the MTF, “We need to raise our level of personal hygiene and social responsibility. I think these are critical parts of our line of defence to fight against (the virus)... They are equally, if not more important, than the border control measures that we have put in place.”

The SG Clean Taskforce will co-ordinate all these efforts.

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