Companies must allow staff to work from home: Task force
Multi-ministry task force says companies that do not implement such measures will face penalties such as stop-work orders and fines
With the number of local Covid-19 infections increasing in Singapore, the multi-ministry task force handling the outbreak yesterday emphasised the need for companies to implement work from home and safe distancing measures.
Companies here must now allow employees to work from home or face penalties such as stop-work orders and fines, extra care must be paid to the elderly and their interaction with others and social activities or gatherings must be cut out.
In his opening remarks at the first virtual press conference held with media here, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong expressed concern at the rising number of cases globally and also the number of local infections in Singapore.
He said there is strong evidence that safe distancing is important to slow down the transmission of the virus and was worried that a number of Singaporeans are not taking it seriously.
He said: "I know that safe distancing measures are quite onerous, not easy to do, and sometimes even painful... But for safe distancing to work, to slow down the spread of Covid-19, all Singaporeans have to play our part.
"Safe distancing measures can save lives... I urge all Singaporeans to take safe distancing seriously to protect Singapore and Singaporeans."
Associate Professor Kenneth Mak, director of medical services, said certain patterns have emerged among the linked cases. Contact tracing has thrown up links by activity, including at workplaces, being members of the same household or through social gatherings.
Mr Gan said for households with elderly people, family members should observe extra caution when interacting with them.
He said: "It is important to appreciate that within our community, there are those who have a higher risk of mortality... Among our seniors, it is much higher.
"If you are ill, please don't get near your seniors. If you don't stay with them, don't visit them if you don't have to. This is a way to protect the seniors at home."
Prof Mak added the elderly have shown a higher risk of developing serious conditions.
He said: "Our seniors are vulnerable and it's important that we respect that social separation. Every effort we take for social distancing makes a difference."
Speaking at the press conference, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo emphasised that telecommuting was a critical part of safe distancing in workplaces.
"Employers must allow employees to work from home as far as reasonably practicable," she said. "This applies to all workplaces regardless of size, and it should be for all times, all days, and not some times, some days."
Mrs Teo said that companies in the manufacturing sector and with production lines can consider safe distancing measures and to stagger arrival and departure hours for employees.
She reassured firms that a "measured approach" will be taken when it comes to punishment meted out in what is already a period of economic hardship for many companies.
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