PETALING JAYA: Ever since the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) scare broke out in Singapore, bus driver M. Sugumaran (not his real name) has not left home without a bottle of disinfectant.
Sugumaran who stays in Johor Baru and travels daily to the island republic to work with a public transport company comes into contact with thousands of people every day as he drives an air-conditioned bus covering various city routes.
These days, he guards the bottle of disinfectant as if it is his lifeline, pouring out a portion of the liquid on completing each trip and applying it to the compartments and gadgets around him.
Whenever he has a chance to take a breather, he will wash his hands and clean his face with soap.
I am just playing safe. We (bus drivers) have to take our own precautionary measures as the company does not provide disinfectant or surgical masks, he said when contacted by The Star.
Malaysian Workers in Singapore Association chairman Raja Ratnam said a large number of the associations several hundred members work in the public transport sector.
Disinfectants, he added, were in such great demand that the island had run out of stock.
We are unable to get a supply from NTUC (Fairprice) stores (a co-operative supermarket chain set up by Singapores National Trade Union Congress) nowadays and have to wait for stock from Malaysia or buy it in Johor Baru.
SARS is now a constant discussion topic among members but there is nothing much we can do except to maintain hygiene and keep disinfecting as often as possible, he said.
On calls by some Malaysian authorities for Malaysians, especially Johoreans working in Singapore, to minimise trips to the island republic or apply for annual leave, Raja asked: Which employer would actually approve mass annual leave applications arising from an over-reaction to SARS?
The association, he said, could only advise its members to minimise after-work activities on the island and return to Johor without venturing into crowded areas.
As for the 300-odd taxi drivers servicing the Johor Baru-Singapore route, some have been putting up with the scorching heat and travelling across the Causeway without air-conditioning for fear of trapping the killer bug in their vehicles.
Johor Baru-Singapore Taxi Drivers Association chairman Abdul Rahman Zainal said this was done on the advice of the Health Department following queries and pressure from concerned drivers for the authorities to provide vaccines, which were non-existent.