Coronavirus: No rush of workers in CBD on Monday morning even as rules ease for more people to return to workplaces

SINGAPORE – While rules have been eased to allow more people to return to the workplace, there appeared to be no rush of workers in the central business district on Monday morning (Sept 28).

When The Straits Times visited Raffles Place at around 9am during the morning rush hour, there was a slow but steady stream of workers who made their way from the MRT station there to their workplaces.

The morning crowd was similar to that from last Friday at about the same time, before the relaxing of workplace rules kicked in on Monday.

All the 20 workers ST interviewed said they did not return to their workplaces for the first time since the two-month circuit breaker ended in early June. Instead, they had been back for some time now.

Barista Shawn Tan, 23, who works at a Starbucks Coffee outlet in Raffles Place, said that there was “no significant difference” in the number of customers he saw on Monday compared with the last few weeks.

He now sees an average of 10 to 15 customers from 7.30am to 10am but he did notice one regular he had not seen for ages and believes she could have just recently returned to her workplace.

The move to allow more employees to return to their workplace was part of the easing of safe distancing measures announced by Health Minister Gan Kim Yong at a virtual press conference last Wednesday, as the number of Covid-19 cases in the community remained low.

Employers have to ensure that safe management measures are in place, and that flexible working hours and staggered reporting times are also implemented.

In addition, employees must continue to work from home for at least half their working time, and no more than half of such employees are at the workplace at any point in time.

The morning crowd was similar to that from last Friday at about the same time, before the relaxing of workplace rules kicked in on Monday. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Events within the workplace, such as seminars, corporate retreats and annual general meetings are also allowed to resume, though work-related events at external venues remain prohibited for now.

For many people like Mr Ang Chung Yuh, 33, returning to work in the CBD on Monday morning has been the case for several weeks or months now.

The fixed income manager said that he has been back to the office since phase two started in June and, for now, his company is unlikely to change plans for split operations arrangements for employees.

For Mr Eric Neo, the chief executive of investment company RF International Holdings, he has been back since after the circuit breaker ended.

Asked if he preferred working from home or in the office, the 46-year-old said: “I’m a parent of two young kids so it’s definitely more productive working from the office.

“But if I were single and living with my parents, there wouldn’t be much difference, but a lot of travelling time is saved.”

He said that the Government has done a good job in slowly opening up the economy and that the public has been very cognisant of safe distancing measures.

Mr Neo also felt the returning CBD crowd in the past weeks creates a sense that “the market is coming alive”.

This is particularly so during lunch time when the sight of queues forming is a positive sign for investors and traders alike, as this is something they cannot be seen when they are working from home.

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