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Hiring of safe distancing ambassadors, enforcement officers to continue after circuit breaker ends: MEWR

SINGAPORE — Safe distancing ambassadors (SDAs) and enforcement officers will still be in demand even after Singapore’s circuit breaker period ends on June 1, said the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) on Saturday (May 23).

Hiring of safe distancing ambassadors, enforcement officers to continue after circuit breaker ends: MEWR

A National Environment Agency safe distancing ambassador reminding patrons to keep a safe distance from each other at a stall during an enforcement operation at Chong Boon Market on April 10, 2020.

SINGAPORE — Safe distancing ambassadors (SDAs) and enforcement officers will still be in demand even after Singapore’s circuit breaker period ends on June 1, said the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) on Saturday (May 23).

Responding to queries from TODAY, MEWR — the lead agency in charge of safe distancing enforcement here — said ambassadors and enforcement officers will continue to be recruited and deployed to ensure the public observes safe distancing measures.

About 3,000 safe distancing personnel are deployed daily, the ministry said.

“The plan is to maintain daily deployment at current levels for a start, and adjust deployment numbers depending on the ground situation,” it added.

MEWR added that these roles will also provide “short-term employment and relief” to those whose livelihoods have been affected by the pandemic.

Ambassadors can be paid up to S$2,500 a month, and some of them who spoke to TODAY are anxious about this income drying up and their future prospects in a tattered economy.

Mr Tin Koh, an SDA with the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) who patrols hotels islandwide, said that he is concerned about having to go back to his previous jobs as a Grab driver and freelance tourist guide.

The 54-year-old started the stint in April and has not yet gotten information on when his stint will end. He plans to return to being a Grab driver when it does, but expects his earnings to fall as there is less demand for ride-sharing services.

“Ultimately, I will still go back to being a tourist guide. Maybe we have to wait for December, which is the peak period,” he said, but added that this may not be realistic and he may well have to wait longer for tourists to return.

NEW HIRES NEEDED AS PUBLIC OFFICERS RETURN TO DUTIES

MEWR said that more than 65 public agencies are involved with enforcement work on the ground, and many of the ambassadors and enforcement officers are also public officers juggling regular duties with enforcement work.

“As it will take some time before Singapore reaches a new normal in Phase 3, new SDAs will be recruited to allow some of the public officers to return full-time to their duties,” the ministry said, referring to Singapore’s plan to ease the circuit breaker in three phases, with the initial phase starting on June 2 and expected to last at least a few weeks, and the second phase expected to last a few months.

When asked, agencies such as STB and Enterprise Singapore (ESG) declined to comment on how long more their ambassadors will be deployed.

However, some ambassadors who spoke to TODAY said their contracts were supposed to be up by the end of June, but might be extended till December.

RENEWED PURPOSE AS AMBASSADORS

Despite the physically demanding job, and the need to deal with unruly behaviour sometimes, safe distancing ambassadors told TODAY that they are keen on staying on in their roles.

An ambassador in his forties, who only wanted to be known as Raymond, said that the role has helped him find a renewed “purpose” amid the slowdown, which had taken away his freelance job.

Since last month, he has been patrolling a mall five days a week, walking as many as 20,000 steps a day advising people to obey the prevailing circuit breaker guidelines.

“I found a purpose in knowing why I want to be a safe distancing ambassador. Because I know I am here to help in my small little way in bringing the numbers down,” said Raymond, who was deployed by ESG.

Mr Edward Malcolm, also employed by ESG, said that he loves and enjoys his role as an ambassador at City Square Mall.

Since the end of last month, the 50-year-old — who is a director of an events company whose operations have been suspended — has been working seven days a week from noon to 9pm, and only takes days off for medical appointments.

“If you don’t enjoy your work, you will be dragging your feet to work, but I wake up at 7am all prepared,” he said. “It’s a chance to get out (of home)... To give something back to society and do my part.”

Related topics

safe distancing circuit breaker Covid-19 coronavirus

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