The COVID-19 pandemic has taken over 180,000 lives, infecting more than 2.5 million. In a bid to further bring down community cases, the Government has decided to extend the circuit breaker period by 4 weeks until Jun 1. Tighter measures are also implemented, such as more workplaces to close.
As this extension keeps us cocooned in our homes for yet another month, there is no doubt about the impacts that it will bring upon us. But for some of us, such changes can be upending. We look at 5 groups of people who will be hit the hardest by the extended circuit breaker.
#1 Those Who Are Currently On Unpaid Leave
While MOM has advised companies not to resort to retrenchments or prolonged no-pay leave, it might be tough for some businesses to do so. Singapore Airlines has announced compulsory no-pay leave for certain employees, while F&B businesses like Swee Kee Eating House has to send three of their long-time staff on unpaid leave.
With substantially reduced income, those on unpaid leave would have found April a struggle. And with a one-month extension, workers might find it challenging to survive this extended period with reduced or no income.
Some businesses might choose to tap on the Jobs Support Scheme – where the Government provides 75% of wage subsidy to local employees in April and May – to pay their workers. But others who are forced to do significant cost-costing measures and continue to implement unpaid leave for another month will leave some employees struggling to make ends meet.
If you know someone being unfairly put on unpaid leave or is receiving a significantly lower salary, you may consider writing in to MOM to voice your concern at firstname.lastname@example.org. Before you do so, read through MOM’s advisory on salary and leave arrangements during the circuit breaker. MOM is likely facing a high volume of enquiries during this period, thus only write in if you have a legitimate concern.
#2 Malaysians Working In Singapore
Malaysia’s Movement Control Order took effect on March 18, disrupting lives of Malaysians who used to shuttle across the Causeway daily. Singapore has provided temporary housing subsidies till March 31. But beyond that, companies have to arrange food and accommodation for the entire of Malaysia’s movement control order, which is currently extended till May 12.
The initial announcement of circuit breaker measures has disrupted their lives, where they are hesitant to return home, in fear that they would be unable to return to Singapore. But staying put in Singapore makes it equally distressing, seeing that non-essential workers are not allowed to work.
For these workers, the circuit breaker extension only prolongs their worries, and have to endure another month of such uncertainty.
#3 Graduating Students And Undergraduates
Students graduating into the COVID-19 outbreak are entering a tough job market. The virus forced an abrupt end to their education, but what’s harsher is the shrinking job prospects for graduating students. Companies are putting recruitment on hold, especially given the extended circuit breaker.
Moreover, hiring during a pandemic means students have to turn up for video interviews looking sharp and inspired, despite being cooped at home for weeks. It is not easy for everyone, and especially so for graduating students who have spent over a decade of formal education preparing, only to realise that the working world is not ready to accept them.
As for undergraduates, an extended circuit breaker wipes up almost half of their summer holidays. This means derailed summer internships and even exchange programmes too. Internships are hard to secure amidst the pandemic, while others might face their internships being rescinded. At NTU’s Nanyang Business School, just half of the 2,600 students who are required to complete work attachments this year have secured places.
#4 Those Working In Services That Are No Longer Deemed Essential
On April 21, some F&B establishments were given a sudden notice to stop operations by the end of the day. F&B outlets that only sell beverages, packaged snacks, confectioneries (e.g. sweets, toffees) or desserts will be required to close their stores.
With such an abrupt notice, it would have caught such businesses off guard. The initial circuit breaker announcement forced F&B businesses to pivot online or preparing for their operations for takeaways and deliveries, only to be struck off the ‘essential services’ list close to two weeks later.
Employees working in such services would be left without a job overnight too, without much alternatives to turn to in such short notice.
#5 Ramadan Bazaar Vendors
In March, the People’s Association announced that all Hari Raya markets have been cancelled. This includes the annual Geylang Serai Hari Raya Bazaar, which attracted more than two million people last year. This decision would impact stall vendors who would already have stocked up their supplies for the bazaar.
Ms Roselin Khatoon, for instance, has been selling festive snacks at #IceboxCookies for three years. With all the bazaars cancelled, she is expected to lose about $70,000 that she invested in the goods ordered. Wholesale suppliers are affected too. For AK Traders International, the excess stock of dairy products and soft drinks are expected to cost the owner, Mr Amir Khan Mohamed Iqbal, around $35,000.
Virtual marketplaces have popped up as an alternative channel for consumers to continue purchasing their Ramadan and Hari Raya goods. But with the extended circuit breaker measures, sweets and confectionery vendors are likely unable to retail online, impacting the livelihoods of those who depend on this festive season for revenue.
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