Coronavirus pandemic

Some workers, students all set to return to offices and schools

Safeguards being put in place as circuit breaker ends, but most will continue to work from home

Besides the usual textbooks and stationery, Mr Melvyn Goh has packed a few more items in his daughter's school bag - an extra face mask and an antibacterial facial spray.

His 11-year-old daughter Emma, who is in Primary 6, is returning to school today, and he wants to take the necessary precautions.

"She is mature enough to know how to take care of herself, but it is good to have these things as backup," said the video producer.

Mr Goh, 44, will be resuming work in the office today as well, after being forced to stop work for the past two months. He needs to access specialised video-editing equipment in the office.

Even though he shares the space with only one other colleague, they will ensure safe distancing measures are in place. Their desks will be placed farther apart from each other, and they will stagger their work timings, he said.

Mr Goh and his daughter are among those who are returning to work and school after the end of the circuit breaker period yesterday.

Schools reopen today, but daily classes on school premises will be held only for the graduating cohorts of Primary 6 and Secondary 4 and 5, who will wear masks while attending lessons.

All other students will alternate weekly between home-based learning and lessons in school.

For workers, working from home must remain the default mode of work. They can return to their workplaces only if necessary - for example, to use equipment inaccessible from home, or to fulfil legal requirements.

While in the office, workers must adhere to safe management measures such as temperature screenings, practising good personal hygiene and wearing masks at all times, except during activities that require them to be removed.

An employee of a global bank, who wanted to be known only as Ms Lim, has been back at work in the office since last week. Her boss helped her to get an exemption to return to the office early as she did not have appropriate work-from-home equipment.

TAKING NO CHANCES

She is mature enough to know how to take care of herself, but it is good to have these things for backup.

MR MELVYN GOH, who packed extra safeguards for his daughter to use in school.

"We all have to wear masks. I sit in my own space, but there are marked-out areas in meeting rooms and the pantry where you can't sit," she said.

Her company provides free meals so employees do not have to go out, and cleaners are there at least three times a day to disinfect the place.

With more people expected to return to their workplaces today, Ms Lim said she is worried as public transport will become more crowded. But the measures put in place by her employer are enough to make her feel safe at work, she said.

Over at escalator and elevator company Kone, field technicians will return to the office from today to retrieve components for repair services. These workers have been split into two teams that cannot mix, either at work or socially.

Meanwhile, all of the firm's other employees who have been working from home will continue to do so.

Real estate consultancy Cushman & Wakefield will reopen its offices at Samsung Hub and Viva Business Park next Monday, after ensuring they are sanitised and safety protocols are firmly in place.

Managing a community recovery facility and several dormitories with Covid-19 cases here has made the firm even more cautious, said Mr Ho Chee Kit, 48, who chairs its Return To Office Taskforce.

Safe distancing and directional signs have been put up, and seats near common walkways have been blocked off. Only up to a quarter of the staff will return to each office, and employees are urged to go home once their work is done.

For Ms Karen Lai, juggling three children while working from home has not been easy. Being at home has been tough on her daughter with special needs, and returning to school will mean fewer meltdowns.

"I am certain the schools are taking every precaution, so I am not worried. However, I plan to drive my kids to and from school so they can avoid taking public transport," said Ms Lai, who is in her 40s.