SINGAPORE: Twenty buses from transport operator SMRT have been retrofitted to help with the mass transfer of COVID-19 patients between places such as hospitals, migrant worker dormitories and the various community recovery and care facilities.
The buses, dubbed COMET MAXIs (COVID-19 Multi-Passenger Enhanced Transporters), can take more than 30 passengers at each time.
There is an airtight partition separating driver and passenger compartment, as part of measures to minimise the risk of transmission.
"Each compartment has its own independent air-conditioning system, which allows air circulation within both cabins to be separated," announced SMRT on Tuesday (May 12) in a joint media release with Temasek Foundation, Singapore-based engineering firm HOPE Technik and Sheares Healthcare.
"The passengers’ compartment is equipped with a Negative Pressure System with a HEPA filter which will help ensure that only clean air is filtered out from the passengers’ compartment."
The driver’s section includes seats for two additional passengers, if paramedics or escort officers are needed.
Drivers do not come into contact with passengers, and vehicles are decontaminated after each deployment.
TRIGEN Automotive, the special function vehicle division of HOPE Technik, was responsible for the engineering design and conversion work for the buses, which have been in operation since May 6.
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It took about two to three days to retrofit each bus, noted the head of TRIGEN Automotive Vic Naidu, adding that the work done is reversible.
Speaking to the media on Tuesday, president for SMRT Roads Tan Kian Heong said that the buses have low floors, which make them wheelchair accessible.
“We have chosen relatively new buses to make sure they are reliable on the road,” he said, adding that the buses are from SMRT’s “operational spare pool” to minimise the impact to public bus services.
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Sheares Healthcare owns the COMET MAXI fleet, which will be used to complement the Health Ministry’s patient transport services, while SMRT subsidiary STRIDES Transportation is responsible for overseeing the operations, driver training and maintenance of the vehicles.
COMET MAXI drivers are not drawn from SMRT’s pool of bus drivers, but are specifically recruited for the job and must have a Class 4 drivers licence.
They will first go through 20 hours of training conducted by SMRT to familiarise themselves with the vehicles, said STRIDES Transportation general manager Kelvin Soon.
In addition, there was an additional two hours of training from the Singapore Civil Defence Force on the proper use of personal protective equipment, which they are required to put on while on duty.