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Concerns Over Contact Tracing and Safe Distancing During Rides


24 April 2020

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong delivered his fourth national address to the public on the COVID-19 situation updates.

These updates include:

– suspending the operations of less critical consumer services (the updated list of essential services that will be allowed to continue can be accessed here);

– placing additional restrictions on selected consumer-facing businesses to further reduce customer interactions;

– reducing the number of businesses allowed to operate at their work premises;

– additional safeguards against community transmission; and

– extension of the circuit breaker, among others.

The Multi-Ministry Taskforce aims to further reduce the number of workers who have to physically go to work. This is with a view to ultimately minimise the movement and interaction of people and curb the outbreak of COVID-19. The full press release can be found here.

One of the essential services affected by the updated measures is the “Taxi services, and chauffeured private hire car services booked through ride hail applications (i.e. excluding private arrangements and chat groups), and key supporting services and suppliers”. It is now illegal for private-hire car (“PHC”) drivers to make private arrangements outside of the ride-hailing platforms.

Our partner, Chooi Jing Yen was approached by The New Paper for his comments on the concerns arising from the updated COVID-19 measures for PHC drivers:

Under normal circumstances, it would not be illegal for PHC drivers to pick up passengers outside of their ride-hailing platforms, be it direct trips or hitch rides.

They would be allowed to do so if they were designated as essential services, but it is unclear if they would be breaking safe distancing laws.

With the new measures, as long as the ride is not booked through a ride-hailing platform like Grab or Gojek, these drivers would be operating a non-essential service, and that would be unlawful.

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