SINGAPORE: Taxi drivers who have seen their incomes drop as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak may be employed temporarily as “transport ambassadors”, Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan said on Monday (Mar 23). 

Speaking during a visit to the future Bright Hill MRT station, he said these ambassadors could help ensure physical distancing between commuters to prevent the spread of COVID-19, as well as sanitising train cabins and seats.

They could be provided with contracts of up to three or six months, depending on how long the pandemic lasts, he said.

The idea to have transport ambassadors support the higher manpower needs at MRT stations for such work was suggested to him by Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean, Mr Khaw noted.

Some taxi drivers had previously reported seeing their incomes drop by as much as 30 per cent, following reduced demand due to the coronavirus outbreak.

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READ: S$77 million package to help taxi, private-hire drivers affected by COVID-19 outbreak

In February, a S$77 million support package – provided by both the Government as well as taxi and ride-hailing companies – to help taxi and private-hire car drivers affected by the COVID-19 outbreak was announced.

Transport operators such as SMRT have been concerned that taxi drivers are seeing reduced income during this period, said Mr Khaw, who is also Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure.

“LTA (Land Transport Authority) therefore will work with them to get this idea up within the next few weeks,” he added

He added that taxi drivers who have seen their incomes dip could also be “actively persuaded” to become bus drivers, and receive the necessary training to do so.

Such a move could also reduce the risk of cross-border disruptions, he noted.

READ: Budget 2020: S$4 billion support package for workers, firms amid COVID-19 outbreak

The move by Malaysia to close its borders last week as part of a “restricted movement order” to stem the spread of the coronavirus affected some 2,500 Malaysians who cross into Singapore daily to work as public bus drivers.

The LTA, together with the National Transport Workers’ Union and the four bus operators here helped provide accommodation in Singapore for the affected drivers for two weeks.

“This is our own attempt to help one another within the public transport sector cope with the pandemic. Regulator, transport operators and unions, working together, fighting a common enemy,” said Mr Khaw, adding this would build stronger bonds within the transport sector.

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