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Doing their bit in the war against Covid-19

Besides healthcare professionals, there are many others on the frontlines of the pandemic fight. Here are just three of them.

Michael Lee was one of the first drivers to sign up Grab's service for healthcare professionals.

Thiru Ramamoorthy of Chye Thiam Maintenance was one of those who helped decontaminate the DBS Bank office at Marina Bay Financial Centre on Feb 12.

Daniel Tan says Food Playground is soldiering on with its cooking classes but with extra precautions.

"DADDY, the masks are not for you, but the passengers who are unwell," says Grab driver Michael Lee's eight-year-old daughter.

With a laugh, Mr Lee says that his elder daughter helps "restock" his mask supply in his work pouch, while his wife ensures that he does not run out of hand sanitiser.

This has been a daily routine for Mr Lee over the past month as he is part of GrabCare drivers, an initiative launched by Grab since February to enable healthcare professionals to travel to and from hospitals. One of the first few drivers to sign up for this initiative, Mr Lee said he never intended to back away from this fight.

"We are all fighting an invisible enemy. My job is to take my passengers from point A to B, and I don't cherry pick my customers. I still need to put food on the table," said Mr Lee.

However, being part of this group of drivers, he is more mindful when it comes to hygiene matters.

"I clean and disinfect my vehicle twice a day, and take my temperature four times a day instead of the recommended two. Grab has provided us with hand sanitisers, which I put in the car and share with my passengers. When they are safe, I am safe too."

When asked if he had any qualms initially joining GrabCare, as he has two young daughters, the 54-year-old gave a resolute no.

"My family was very supportive,'' he said. Temperature taking is now part of the household's daily activity. "Everyone has to do their part. I believe this is just a temporary measure."

He does get some requests from some passengers to "wind down the windows" when they realise he is part of GrabCare, but he assures them that there is nothing to worry about.

"This group of passengers belongs to the minority, and I think people are worried because there are a lot of unknowns with this disease. But I tell them that panic is something we don't want and we can fight this together.

"I believe the healthcare workers ... have the best hygiene practices since they are healthcare professionals. In fact, they would take extra steps to clean themselves since they have family members as well, and they would not want to take the disease home with them."

A Grab spokesperson said: "Healthcare professionals have been on the frontlines from Day 1. We want to ease the burden on these healthcare professionals when we heard that they were facing increased difficulties in getting rides to and from the medical facilities back in early February. In less than a week, various teams at Grab worked hard together to launch the dedicated transport service for our healthcare workers."

Since the initiative was launched on Feb 14, the service has been expanded beyond the National Centre for Infectious Disease and Tan Tock Seng Hospital to other government hospitals. The spokesperson added that one of the challenges was getting the product ready to launch within an extremely short time and ensuring it would be able to sufficiently serve the needs of healthcare workers.

"Our product team and engineers put in a lot of effort and coordination into not just the development of the GrabCare option on the app, but also the geofencing process for the GrabCare service so that the service would be exclusively available to healthcare workers within earmarked vicinity,'' the spokesperson said.

"When we opened up the system for driver-partners to volunteer for the service, almost 2,000 of them signed up within the first 12 hours. Today, the number of GrabCare driver-partners has more than doubled.

"We then had to work closely with participating hospitals to register healthcare workers who were interested in signing up for the service. This is to ensure that the GrabCare service is serving the intended group of passengers."

Grab is also supporting its drivers in various ways such as ensuring that drivers who are hospitalised or quarantined will get between S$500 and S$1,000 during this period as well as rental reimbursement.

Scrubbing out the virus, wherever it may lurk

ON FEB 12, Thiru Ramamoorthy was part of a team that was activated to decontaminate the DBS Bank office at Marina Bay Financial Centre after a staffer was diagnosed with Covid-19.

The 26-year-old employee of Chye Thiam Maintenance said he received a call from DBS MBFC's building manager in the morning and was notified about a confirmed case on Level 43.

A separate pandemic team was later told to commence deep-cleaning procedures at that level.

Mr Thiru said: "There are different levels of cleaning regime: a full disinfectant wipe down on all areas, furniture and equipment will be carried out if there's a suspect case, while a deep cleaning procedure, including misting and full wipe down will be conducted when there's been a confirmed case of infection.

"When disinfecting an area where a suspect or confirmed case has been, we must put on a full set of personal protective equipment (PPE), including a protective gown, shower cap, face shield, as well as a pair of surgical gloves and shoe covers. The PPE ensures that we stay protected from any contaminants and ensures that we can carry out our jobs safely."

He added that the pandemic team (which does the deep cleaning) will put on hazmat suits to protect themselves from the chemical agents in the misting disinfectant.

"We also need to be careful not to touch others during the cleaning, as well as our faces, mobile phones and clothing while carrying out the cleaning."

Mr Thiru said immediately after a cleaning procedure, the protective equipment and gear would be disposed of.

"All of the items will be double-bagged and sealed tightly with a cable tie, and properly disposed of in biohazard bins."

That day, upon entering the floor, he volunteered to go in first to disinfect the area as his other teammates were all in their 50s.

The cleaning supervisor at DBS Marina Bay Financial Centre said: "As their leader, it's my duty to protect them and step up to ensure that they stay safe and healthy.

"I'm willing to do the disinfectant cleaning without them, as younger persons like myself are less vulnerable to the virus than seniors. We are a team and we need to help and support each other, especially during such challenging times."

He added that another round of disinfectant cleaning was done before DBS staff returned to work at the office.

"This is so that they will feel reassured that they will be in a sanitised environment."

Shee Tse Koon, DBS Singapore country head, said ground staff, such as cleaning crew, are at the frontlines working longer days to ensure that the company's environment is sanitised according to national health guidelines.

"As they continue to take care of us, we also need to band together to show our support and gratitude.

"Since last week, we have been distributing 1,000 complimentary Kopi Ong and Old Tea Hut beverages to our DBS office frontline staff, and this is in addition to the bank's collective efforts to help the national battle against the virus outbreak.

"It means a lot to us to see that our little gesture helped lift everyone's spirits, knowing that there is indeed strength in numbers."

Keep calm and carry on cooking laksa, nasi lemak, chicken rice...

DURING this period, F&B and F&B-related businesses have arguably taken one of the worst hits. Food Playground, a cooking school in the heart of Chinatown whose main clientele is tourists, has not been spared.

The social enterprise has seen a 50 per cent drop in customers and revenue in February and 80 per cent drop in March after additional border controls and social distancing measures were implemented.

However, founder Daniel Tan has decided to soldier on with classes and not turn away any foreigners.

"Our weekday cultural cooking classes are still operating as normal. This is because there are still many people who want to learn how to cook, especially our local Singapore signature favourites like laksa, chicken rice and nasi lemak.

"In fact, we have responded to requests from locals and expatriates to run weekend classes ... but of course, extra precautions such as temperature-taking and thorough cleaning of all common surfaces by our staff are in place."

Mr Tan has also made use of this downtime to come up with new recipes to teach after this crisis blows over. He even secured an exclusive partnership of two years with French dairy brand Elle & Vire to promote their butter and cream.

"This timing of this partnership is perfect from our point of view as we are able to use our downtime not only to do recipe development for Elle & Vire, but also collaborate with them to run some charity bake donations to show our appreciation to our frontline healthcare heroes.

"Our new recipes will take advantage of the excellent quality of butter and cream from Elle & Vire, and have a local Singapore twist like laksa cookies, pandan gula melaka scones and nostalgic buttercream cakes."

When asked about the government rebates and whether the implementations were sufficient, Mr Tan said: "Like many other businesses, we are hoping for more support for rental overheads during this period as rent makes up a substantial portion of our expenses.

"The government may also want to consider suspending mortgage payments like what Italy and the Philippines have done.

"In this way, landlords have more capacity to support businesses that rent from them, and workers who have financial difficulties have more breathing space to meet their financial obligations."

Mr Tan ageed this is a difficult period for everyone, but rather than looking inward and worrying about one's own problems, it is more productive to channel energies to spreading positivity and showing appreciation to one another, especially two groups of people - frontline healthcare workers and the elderly who face the highest risk during this outbreak.

"We will be putting our culinary talents to good use by sharing our labour of love with our frontline healthcare heroes and elderly at the Home Nursing Foundation in the coming weeks. We can all get through this together."