Participating in the national effort to prevent community outbreak due to the Wuhan virus, the taxi and private hire operators are encouraging its employees who visited mainland China to take a 14-day leave of absence upon their return. The main priority here is to protect these drivers as they are in an environment where they are constantly exposed to a large number of passengers.
“If I get infected, I shall be spreading the virus everywhere I drive and I don’t want that.”
“My wife is also a private hire driver. We are expecting our first baby in this rather unfortunate season but we are glad to have some of our daily expenses cushioned. We know that we can receive some financial aids, in the event, that any of us is quarantined,” says Mr Ng.
Mr Ng is a proud driver with one of the private-hire car operators. Courteous and friendly, he speaks softly and slowly, delivering his carefully phrased opinions in a professional tone punctuated with the occasional laughter.
In a collective effort to help and support the livelihoods of taxi and private hire drivers quarantined by the Ministry of Health, a few initiatives are provided: a S$200 one-off allowance from the National Private Hire Vehicles Association (NPHVA), an affiliate of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) for its members; an one-off allowance of at least S$100 from their operators in addition to rental waivers earlier announced. The quarantined self- employed drivers are also entitled to receive S$100 per day they are quarantined as initiated by the Singapore government.
Mr Ng confides that his income used to be substantial due to the long hours driving on the roads with a few improvised ideas with his group of ‘kakis’. His daily twelve to fourteen hours midnight shifts start with plying the usual routes where most tourists or party goers will hang out.
The effects of the recent Wuhan virus epidemic have hit these drivers directly and aversely. With the drastic fall in air traffic flow as well as people choosing to minimise outdoor activities, these drivers’ incomes have taken a steep dive.
Pertaining to a survey done by Today on Friday, ‘some drivers have seen a drop in passenger numbers by 20 to 50 per cent’ and six out of ten had expressed concerns about ferrying passengers who are sick; the latter playing another contributor for their income reduction.
Mr Ng took on a serious tone when this topic was approached. “I believe that opportunities arise in every crisis. The number of tourists might decrease but the number of locals choosing taxis and private hire cars over public transportation like buses and trains might increase just as well.”
“While we are not too concerned about the situation, we take extra care to sanitise our cars more often.”
In times of emergency, these taxi and private hire drivers are also our heroes. There are so many moving stories on how these drivers have gone beyond their call of duty to help our fellow citizens.
“We grind on. This situation has not stopped many of us from giving away masks to the frail, old folks as well as to the stranded tourists whom other groups of drivers are making deliberate attempts to avoid.”
A big thank you to these real-life heroes. A little kindness goes a long way.