Start of Malaysian lockdown not affecting Singapore public transport: Khaw Boon Wan

(SCREENCAP: Khaw Boon Wan/Facebook)
(SCREENCAP: Khaw Boon Wan/Facebook)

SINGAPORE — The start of Malaysia’s two-week lockdown has not affected public transport, with train and bus services running normally, said Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan.

In a post on Facebook on Wednesday (18 March) night, Khaw added that the Land Transport Authority, public transport operators – SBS Transport, SMRT, Tower Transit Singapore and Go-Ahead Singapore — as well as National Transport Workers’ Union (NTWU) have provided accommodation for affected Malaysian drivers.

“They were properly settled in last night,” he said.

“As an SMRT bus captain puts it: ‘I’m very happy with the hotel accommodation. I’ll definitely get a good night’s rest – no problem at all!’ His worry was that: ‘I’m just concerned I won’t wake up in time, haha!’”

The lockdown and prompt response by various partners show “the value of contingency planning and the need to take business continuity plans seriously”, Khaw said.

On Tuesday night, NTWU executive secretary Melvin Yong wrote of his visit on Facebook to Genting Hotel Jurong to check in on Malaysian bus workers from SMRT and Tower Transit Singapore.

“They have been staying here since the Malaysian lockdown (was) imposed...Glad to know that all of them are settling in well. Many of them had to rush back home to pack yesterday for a two-week stay in Singapore,” said Yong, who is also Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar GRC.

He noted that some had managed to have a quick dinner with their family members before making their journey back to Singapore across the Causeway.

“Some told me this is the first time in over 30 years that they are unable to return home after work. A few said they had difficulty sleeping last night due to the adrenaline flowing from all the excitement, especially getting caught in the jam at the causeway for hours, with the clock ticking down to 11.59pm,” he added.

He also thanked “our Malaysian brothers and sisters” for their sacrifices”.

On Tuesday, Yong said on Facebook over 2,500 affected public transport workers for the next two weeks have been provided hotel accommodation.

These workers, including Malaysian bus captains and technicians, will also be given a daily allowance to defray some “unexpected living expenses”, he had added.

“To further support our public transport workers during this challenging time, the union is looking at providing subsidised meals to our members at our NTWU canteens across the island. More details will be shared in due course,” Yong had said

Late Monday night, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced a nationwide restriction of movement in the country from 18 to 31 March, in a bid to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

All non-essential businesses will be closed. Malaysians are prohibited from travelling overseas, while foreign tourists and visitors will not be allowed to enter Malaysia.

About 300,000 people travel across the Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints daily, according to local authorities.

Many workers affected by the ban are hired by companies that provide essential services, such as healthcare, security, cleaning, transport as well as waste and facilities management.

$50 temporary relief measure for employers

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo announced on Tuesday that companies in Singapore hit by Malaysia’s lockdown will get $50 for every affected worker per night over two weeks to help ease additional costs incurred in securing temporary lodging for them here.

This “temporary relief measure” will give companies more time to work out sustainable arrangements and more details on how they can apply for the financial support will be announced at a later date, she added.

She also said that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has released a list of 20 hotels and four dormitories where companies can consider housing these affected workers. The hotels on the list include Furama Riverfront, Peninsula Excelsior Hotel, and three Ibis budget Singapore hotels.

The ministry is also working with the industry to facilitate the accommodation in Housing Board flats and private properties for such workers.

Teo also reiterated the MOM’s call for companies to encourage such workers to stay with their relatives, friends or colleagues, who may be willing to accommodate them for a short period.

Thus far, employers have mostly been able to find accommodation options on their own, she added.

“But a number have had difficulty and approached us, several hundred or so. And by and large, we do have enough capacity to help them. So I'm confident that all of the needs can be met,” explained Teo, who disclosed that more than 10,000 workers have been matched so far for their accommodation.

To date, Singapore has 313 confirmed cases of the virus, with 117 fully recovered and discharged.

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