Photo credit: Youth.SG/Justin Hui

People we cannot take for granted in the fight against COVID-19

We need to appreciate the bus drivers and cleaners making sacrifices to keep Singapore functioning.

Justin Hui

Published: 20 March 2020, 12:00 AM

It’s been almost two months since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Singapore. And although everyone has faced some level of disruption to their lives, the overall situation in Singapore has still been somewhat stable compared to what is happening abroad.

Our nation’s leaders and medical professionals have been working hard to plan ahead and contain this virus. But I’ve come to realise that there are also four groups of people we often overlook who have made big sacrifices for the rest of us to continue life as normally as possible.

1. Our bus captains, especially the drivers from Malaysia 

There are some professions that don’t have the option to “work from home”. Our transport operators have been reliably keeping our bus fleets running, even as many feel it is safer to stay off the streets.

With Malaysia beginning its two-week lockdown earlier this week (Mar 18), Malaysian bus drivers working in Singapore faced a difficult dilemma: They could either go on no pay leave for two weeks, or leave their families to continue working in Singapore for the next two weeks (or potentially more).

Many of them chose the latter, saying goodbye to their loved ones and braving the massive jam at the causeway, even when there was uncertainty regarding where they would sleep once they arrived in Singapore.


I make it a point to thank the bus drivers whenever I alight to appreciate them for their unseen sacrifices.
Photo credit: Youth.SG/Chevonne Law


2. Our cleaners, especially the elderly

Ever since people suddenly became extremely hygiene-conscious, our cleaners have hardly had a break.

The office cleaners I spoke to said they used to clean the toilets in our building twice a day – now they have to do it five times. They also have to wear a mask while working, which many find stuffy while doing manual work.

A lot of our cleaners are elderly, who suddenly have a huge responsibility of keeping us safe on their shoulders. Some come from abroad too, and don’t even have decent shelter to rest after work.

Singaporeans tend to ignore or take for granted cleaning staff at food courts or on the streets. We should thank them more, and even have a quick chats to find out if they are doing okay.


I was moved to see an MRT station cleaner on his hands and knees, scraping the floor with a metal tool and scrubbing it down during my peak hour commute.
Photo credit: Youth.SG/Justin Hui


3. Nurses from overseas

There was a week in February when Singapore had the highest number of diagnosed COVID-19 cases outside of China. Other countries were advising their citizens to avoid travelling to Singapore, and even locals started to panic and hoard supplies.

Yet even as the nation moved to DORSCON Orange, our nurses (a substantial number of whom are foreigners) continued doing their job, taking care of all who fell sick and were shunned by society. Singapore was the last place any foreigner would want to be at that time, but these medical staff bravely stood alongside our Singaporeans in the frontline fight against the novel coronavirus.

There’s a lot more we can do to appreciate our nurses, especially those from abroad who are supplementing the workforce and helping to keep the healthcare system afloat.

4. Supermarket staff 

I visited my neighbourhood Sheng Siong supermarket a day after the second round of panic-buying in Singapore, after Malaysia announced its lockdown.

Many images were shared on social media of empty shelves in supermarkets the night before, and I wanted to know what the situation was like the next morning. This is what I saw:


When I visited on Mar 17, staff had already restocked all the shelves in the supermarket.
Photo credits: Youth.SG/Justin Hui


When I asked a counter staff how things were this week, she smiled and sighed, saying they all had to do overtime late into the night. I felt bad for all the unnecessary work we kiasu Singaporeans had created for the staff, and thanked them for keeping things running too.

The world is in a bad place now and the future is uncertain, but thanks to the efforts and sacrifices of people we often overlook, we are carrying on.

To me, #SGUnited is about all of us, young and old, local or foreign, coming together to keep Singapore going. This really is about all of us, and we cannot afford to take anyone for granted if we are to come out of this crisis together.

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