Monday, 28 Sep 2020

Covid-19 no excuse to abuse bus drivers: Ong Ye Kung

SINGAPORE – Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung took to his social media accounts to express his gratitude for bus drivers and denounce passengers who abuse them.

On Sunday (Aug 23), he wrote on his Facebook and Instagram pages: “We may live in uncertain times due to Covid-19 but that is no excuse for anyone to physically or verbally abuse fellow human beings who are performing their duties. The last thing we need on a bus is an uncooperative and abusive passenger.

“Graciousness is the cornerstone of a caring society. Let’s be there for our bus uncles and aunties.”

Mr Ong added that bus drivers start their days as early as 4am. “They single-handedly command and steer a bus, in a timely and safe manner. They send the youngest to oldest in our households to school, work, market and errands,” he wrote.

The post comes four days after a Facebook user posted a video of himself verbally abusing a bus driver who would not let him board a public bus wearing a neck gaiter instead of a face mask.

In the 15-minute-long live video, Mr Nimal De Silva is heard commenting on the incident while the driver is seeking help. The passenger is also seen rejecting an offer of a mask from another passenger.

The video ends with the police speaking to the man and the bus driver.

The police said they were alerted to a case of intentional harassment against a public service worker and public nuisance along Nicoll Highway at 6pm last Wednesday.

They are still investigating the case.

According to the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act, a “mask” includes any paper or textile covering designed or made to be worn over the nose and mouth to provide the wearer protection against infections or air pollution, but excludes a face shield.

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, lawyer Rajan Supramaniam said: “The Ministry of Health (MOH) should provide clearer guidelines on whether neck gaiters, as well as other cloth items such as handkerchiefs and scarves, can be used as a substitute for face masks to enlighten the public.

“It is also for the benefit of the police to know what is acceptable so they can enforce the rules without ambiguity.”

According to the MOH website, “a mask that closely and completely covers the nose and mouth (i.e. without leaving a gap between the mask and the face) must be worn when persons go out of their homes”.

When contacted, a ministry spokesman said: “MOH does not recommend the use of neck gaiters and bandanas as masks.” 

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