SINGAPORE: Taxi and private-hire car drivers will receive an additional S$30 million in support from the Government amid an expected decline in ridership during the month-long Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) period, which began on Thursday (Jul 22).
The amount will go towards the COVID-19 Driver Relief Fund, set up in December last year to support drivers affected by the pandemic.
Announcing the move on Friday, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said ridership is likely to take some time to recover after the relaxation of safe management measures, based on experience from the last heightened alert period from May to June this year.
In May, Transport Minister S Iswaran said that figures from LTA showed that heightened COVID-19 restrictions then resulted in ridership for taxis and private-hire cars falling to about 55 per cent of what it was before the pandemic.
READ: S$1.1 billion support package for workers, businesses hit by Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) restrictions
The fund currently provides drivers with S$10 per vehicle per day for 60 days from July this year, and S$5 per vehicle for the next 30 days after that.
The latest boost to the fund will see eligible drivers receiving an additional S$10 per vehicle per day from Jul 22 to Aug 31, and an extra S$5 per vehicle per day in September.
This is on top of the S$40 million which the Government had already committed for the three-month extension of the COVID-19 Driver Relief Fund announced on Jun 10, LTA said.
This brings the total amount set aside to support the taxi and private-hire sectors since February last year to S$482 million.
LTA said it will work with taxi and private-hire car operators to implement the latest enhancements to the fund over the next two weeks, with firms informing drivers of disbursement details in due course.
All taxi and private-hire drivers who are currently receiving payouts through the COVID-19 Driver Relief Fund will automatically receive the additional payments through their operators, LTA said, adding there is no need for drivers to make an application.
In a Facebook post on Friday, Mr Iswaran said more than 50,000 drivers will benefit from the latest round of support, noting their "important role in ferrying Singaporeans every day despite the pandemic".
“For drivers who are served quarantine orders after coming into close contact with individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 infection, MOH (Ministry of Health) will continue to administer the Quarantine Order Allowance Scheme,” LTA said.
The scheme provides S$100 a day to self-employed individuals who have been served quarantine orders.
Taxi and private-hire operators - in addition to the National Taxi Association and the National Private Hire Vehicles Association, which represent the interests of drivers - will also continue to provide their own relief packages to affected drivers, LTA added.
Senior Minister of State for Transport Amy Khor said union leaders and advisers she had met with earlier in the week had shared their concerns about the impact of the current COVID-19 curbs on the livelihoods of drivers.
“Since the start of the pandemic, we have seen many drivers leave the industry and I hope this enhanced package will help our drivers tide through this rough patch and continue to serve commuters,” said Dr Khor in a Facebook post.
She noted that current restrictions on dining in could affect taxi and private-hire drivers, as well as others, who may now find it difficult to find a place to eat their meals or rest.
“I understand from NTA and NPHVA that they are also looking into this so that drivers can go to venues with safe management measures in place to eat their meals,” said Dr Khor, encouraging drivers who had not done so to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Dr Khor had said in May that more than 80 per cent of taxi and private-hire drivers had already received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
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