Manpower Minister on the Novel Coronavirus

Employers and workers must play their part to help in the fight against the Wuhan Coronavirus: Manpower Minister Josephine Teo.
By Fawwaz Baktee 29 Jan 2020
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Everyone, including employers, must play their part to keep workplaces safe, as this will help in the overall effort in Singapore’s fight against the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo shared her thoughts on 29 January 2020, at the sidelines of the Singapore Maritime Officers’ Union (SMOU) Lunar New Year Luncheon (see below).

“Our objective must be to enable life to go on. That means businesses must be able to continue to operate, and workers must be able to go to work. And to do so, we have to keep our workplaces safe,” said Mrs Teo.

Singapore’s workforce has a total of about 3.6 million workers and 150,000 employers.

The Role of Employers

On the role of employers, Mrs Teo said: “Employers need to familiarise themselves with the advisories issued by the Ministry of Health [MOH], and these are regularly updated. Ministry of Manpower [MOM] also issues advisories that give more specific suggestions and guidelines to companies.”

Mrs Teo said that the second thing employers need to do is to implement the recommendations from the advisories without delay.

She added that employers who are unsure and have reasons for concern can reach out to MOM, trade associations and chambers, the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF), as well as the unions for advice.

Assuring Workers

Mrs Teo also assured workers that the steps the Government is taking are “precautionary and appropriate to the situation.”

“At the moment, they [workers] have no reason for concern, as long as everyone adheres to the advisories. In other words, if you follow the advisory, you can still go to work and not be impeded from carrying out our usual activities,” she said.

Work Pass Restrictions

On 28 January 2020, MOM announced a set of restrictions for applicants and work pass holders from Hubei, China, as part of its additional measures to contain the Wuhan Coronavirus.

As part of the restriction, MOM will reject all new work pass applications for foreign workers from Hubei until further notice. Renewal applications for existing work pass holders from Hubei will not be affected.

Existing work pass holders from Hubei who are currently away or with recent Hubei travel history within the last 14 days should defer their return to Singapore, said MOM in the advisory.

However, workers with valid work passes will still be allowed to enter Singapore but will be quarantined at home or other suitable facilities upon returning.

Touching on the impact of this restriction, Mrs Teo said: “When you distribute it among the sectors, and you further distribute it among the companies, the impact is not very large at all.”

She added that the Government is currently monitoring the situation to ensure work such as construction is not delayed because of the work pass application restrictions, and that there is no indication of severe delays happening at the moment.

SMOU Lunar New Year Luncheon

Mrs Teo was guest of honour at the SMOU Lunar New Year Luncheon and Hong Bao Presentation event.  

The annual event saw in attendance 1,400 guests comprising seniors from community homes, senior residents, SMOU senior members, tripartite partners and guests from the shipping community.  

SMOU also gave out red packets, festive goods and goodie bags worth more than $50,000 to 770 senior citizens.

Since its first Lunar New Year event in 1998, SMOU has given almost $650,000 to around 9,000 senior citizens as part of its “caring and sharing” core value.