MRT trains and buses more crowded after circuit breaker
Trains and buses more crowded, particularly during peak hours, as life reboots after the circuit breaker
Senior security officer Choclet Anthony boarded her regular bus service 50 with some trepidation in Sengkang yesterday morning to head to work in Bishan.
She had worked almost daily during the circuit breaker period over the last two months, when safe distancing was mandatory on public transport.
Mrs Anthony, 64, was concerned that enforced safe distancing would no longer be practised on buses and trains after the end of the circuit breaker.
"I think it is too soon to remove the safe distancing stickers on the seats. Perhaps waiting until phase two would have been better," she told The New Paper.
Mrs Anthony said she was prepared to skip buses that were crowded but was somewhat relieved to see "empty seats here and there" on the two she boarded yesterday.
"Though everyone was wearing masks, I am not sure if that is enough. I am still frightened," she added.
Other commuters TNP spoke to were more sanguine as students and part of the workforce returned to their normal routines as phase one of the reopening kicked in yesterday.
Banking executive June Tham, 55, who had also commuted to work during the circuit breaker, said: "Today there were more people than usual, and people were seated apart...
"Of course, I am paranoid because Covid-19 is still around, but as long as people are self-disciplined to maintain a distance from everyone, wash their hands, wear a mask and not talk loudly, it is okay."
Secondary 4 student Nurselisya Yasmin, 16, said: "I am not worried there are now no safe distancing stickers in the buses and trains.
"I noticed everyone was still keeping a distance from one another. Singaporeans in general have been behaving responsibly in public places."
When this reporter was on a train heading from Sembawang to Bishan at about 5.30pm, most commuters sat a seat apart and those standing kept at least a metre away from others.
On the return journey at around 7pm, the train was more crowded and commuters sat next to each other or stood closer.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said there was an observable increase in bus and rail ridership yesterday, particularly during peak hours, compared with the circuit breaker period.
Public transport workers and transport ambassadors were present to guide and assist commuters and the situation was orderly, it added.
As the capacity of trains and buses will be increased to the maximum, it will be "challenging to maintain physical distancing, especially during peak periods", its spokesman told TNP.
Where physical distancing is still possible, such as bus stops and interchanges, the markers will remain.
"Commuters must wear a mask when using public transport. They should also be socially responsible and refrain from talking to one another or on their phones during their journey, and practise good personal hygiene," said LTA.
SafeEntry, a national digital check-in system that logs a person's entry into a venue, has its QR codes placed at prominent locations at train stations and bus interchanges.
People are encouraged to use it to help contact tracing efforts but will not be penalised for not doing so, the spokesman said.
Dr Chia Shi-Lu, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health, said it would not be practical to maintain safe distancing on public transport, but people already understand the need to physically distance themselves if necessary.
He said: "Employers have facilitated work-from-home arrangements and schools are staggering hours. Unless the travel is necessary, one should continue to stay home."
Infectious disease specialist, Dr Leong Hoe Nam, said: "Yes, the virus may spread on the train, but if you wear the mask correctly and observe good hand hygiene, the risk is low."
Both experts recommended the TraceTogether app, a digital contact tracing tool activated by the use of a bluetooth connection, instead of SafeEntry.
Dr Leong said: "People tend to forget to log in and out. The more foolproof way is geo-location tracking but it invades privacy. TraceTogether will work but the uptake is too low."
A corporate services executive who wanted to be known only as Mr Sim, 27, said it was the first time he had set foot in a train in two months.
He said: "There was no safe distancing and I sat next to two strangers during my ride from Tanjong Pagar to Yishun.
"But as long as your mask is on and you don't touch your face or other surfaces unnecessarily, it is going to be fine."