Taxi and private-hire car drivers given masks to offer to passengers
Masks are one-off contribution from Government and meant to be given to unwell passengers
From today, 300,000 surgical masks will be distributed to taxi and private-hire car drivers amid fears over local transmission of the novel coronavirus.
A one-off contribution from the Government, the masks are meant to be given to passengers who are unwell and will be distributed in packs of four to the drivers through their companies and operators.
This is on top of existing efforts by companies and operators to give out hand sanitisers and masks to drivers.
Cabbies and private-hire car drivers have seen earnings take a big hit since the coronavirus outbreak status was moved up to orange on Friday last week. That three of the 23 local cases confirmed here so far were taxi or private-hire drivers has also done little to quell anxiety.
Senior Minister of State for Transport Janil Puthucheary told reporters yesterday that the latest measures are aimed at giving drivers confidence to keep their services running and to assure passengers about the vehicles and drivers picking them up.
To that end, drivers are also encouraged to take their temperature twice a day, and taxi operators will set up eight temperature screening stations across their premises from today.
Those who go to a station to take their temperature will be given a sticker for the day if they are well.
More screening stations will be set up islandwide.
Meanwhile, private-hire car drivers need to take their own temperature and submit their readings via the respective operators' applications.
Drivers are also advised to wind down their windows to improve ventilation and reminded to continue practising good personal hygiene.
Speaking after a closed-door dialogue with 60 drivers, Dr Janil said: "We need to find a way to restore confidence."
Mr Ang Hin Kee, adviser to both the National Taxi Association and National Private Hire Vehicles Association, said the mood at the dialogue was one of concern but more so over "rice bowls".
Mr Ang, also the deputy chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, said that anecdotally, business has dropped by almost a third since the alert level was raised.
He added: "Commuters are afraid to go out... so that has put a toll on our drivers. They will either have to drive longer hours or to more places."
Dr Janil said the Government is studying further financial assistance packages beyond the one rolled out earlier this month for drivers under quarantine or taking a leave of absence.
But he said it is still premature to discuss these measures.
Taxi driver Harry Ng, 61, said he has heard some talk of a few drivers who were afraid of medical facilities and healthcare workers, but the cabby of 25 years said he would not shy away.
He added: "If we don't pick them up, who will?"