SINGAPORE: Taxi drivers who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Feb 1 will be allowed to suspend their contracts until they are fully vaccinated, Senior Minister of State for Transport Amy Khor said on Thursday (Jan 13).
Workplace vaccination measures announced last month require workers - including those who are self-employed, such as taxi and private-hire vehicle drivers - to be fully vaccinated in order to return to the workplace from February.
Taxi drivers typically rent their vehicles from taxi operators. Those whose contracts are suspended will not have to pay rental during the suspension period.
This will "reduce their financial burden" during this period, said Dr Khor.
Slightly more than 300 medically eligible active drivers - or about 0.5 per cent of all active drivers - have yet to receive at least one dose of the vaccine, said Dr Khor in a Facebook post.
She added that she had met with representatives from the National Taxi Association (NTA) and the National Private Hire Vehicles Association (NPHVA), who had requested for an extension beyond Feb 1 to allow for unvaccinated taxi and private-hire drivers to comply with these measures.
"Extending the timeline for our unvaccinated taxi and (private-hire) drivers would in fact be putting them at greater health risk," she said.
"Hence, we urge all medically eligible drivers who are still unvaccinated to get your shots as soon as possible."
"To reduce the financial burden of taxi drivers who need more time beyond Feb 1, 2022 to be fully vaccinated, LTA (Land Transport Authority) has worked with taxi operators to allow these drivers to suspend their contracts until they are fully vaccinated," she added.
She also said that drivers who need assistance to comply with the measures can approach their associations or the LTA to see how they can provide help, on a case-by-case basis.
"I’m thankful to know that taxi operators will allow affected drivers to suspend their contracts until they are fully vaccinated," said Member of Parliament Yeo Wan Ling (PAP-Pasir Ris-Punggol).
Ms Yeo, who is an advisor to both the NTA and the NPHVA, also called on private-hire vehicle rental companies to extend the same support to private-hire drivers.
"I hope these provisions will help some of our affected drivers to tide over this transition period before they are fully vaccinated," she said.
For those who have taken at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, they have until Jan 31 to complete their vaccination regime.
"During this grace period, they will be able to continue to drive, as long as they have a daily negative pre-event test result from a Ministry of Health-approved COVID-19 test provider," said Dr Khor.
She added that more than 99 per cent of about 66,500 active taxi and private-hire vehicle drivers are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, with more than 75 per cent having also received their booster shots.
The higher transmissibility of the Omicron variant makes it even more critical for medically eligible drivers to adhere to the workplace vaccination measures by Feb 1 to "protect themselves and bolster Singapore’s protection against a large wave of local COVID-19 cases", she said.
The National Trades Union Congress, together with the NTA and NPVHA, expressed their support for the authorities' proposed approach to encourage and support the more than 300 unvaccinated drivers to get their vaccination, noted Dr Khor.
"We have been working with our tripartite partners to reach out to this group of drivers and will continue to do so," she said.