Opening Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, at the Launch of “Keep Clean, Singapore 2020” on Saturday, 19 September 2020
1 Good morning. I thank the Public Hygiene Council for organising and having me launch this year’s “Keep Clean, Singapore” campaign.
2 This annual campaign is an important initiative to encourage Singaporeans to take ownership of the cleanliness of our shared public spaces. Against the backdrop of the current COVID-19 pandemic, this has become even more relevant.
Cleanliness is a shared responsibility
3 In the new term of Parliament, my immediate priority is to strengthen our environmental public health resilience against the current pandemic and dengue outbreak, and future public health threats. We are doing this in a few ways. Let me share with you two key initiatives.
4 First, I have tabled amendments to the Environmental Public Health Act and I expect to get this through Parliament in October. We intend to implement mandatory cleaning standards, including a regime that specifies frequency for routine cleaning and deep cleaning for disinfection. We will strengthen our environmental sanitation controls and require accountability by owners of premises. NEA will work with industry sector leads to implement these requirements from 2021, progressively, starting with higher-risk sectors with high footfall, and immuno-vulnerable occupants such as childcare centres.
5 Second, we launched an SG Clean campaign, with an SG Clean quality mark. The SG Clean Mark is awarded to premises which have met NEA’s sanitation and hygiene standards. This mark will be important to businesses, such as hotels and restaurants, who want to get their customers back by assuring them of the measures taken to safeguard their health. I am happy to share that as of the end of August, more than 22,000 premises across Singapore have come forward and gotten the SG Clean Mark.
6 Ensuring the cleanliness of our public spaces is our shared responsibility. Beyond what the Government and owners of premises can do, members of the public - that’s us - must help keep Singapore clean. According to the Public Cleanliness Satisfaction Survey, majority of Singaporeans take pride in keeping Singapore clean. Yet, most recognise that our public spaces are clean because of efficient cleaning services. About a fifth still think that it is acceptable to leave rubbish around if they see that there is already litter in the area. And while most thought that it is easy to return trays, a third believe it is the cleaner’s responsibility to do so.
We can do better
7 As a caring people, who proudly call Singapore a clean city, can we do better in keeping Singapore clean? As individuals, do we not have the power and responsibility to protect ourselves and our community from public health threats? Is it right to expose our cleaners, fellow diners and neighbours to germs when we leave our used tissue or masks behind on the table, on the floor? Is it that difficult to dispose our litter properly in bins?
8 And here I would like to bring your attention to the work of the Public Hygiene Council in building a Zero Litter Nation, by raising public awareness of the health hazards of littering, and working with establishments such as coffee shops, hotels and retailers to raise the standards of public hygiene and cleanliness.
9 The Council has also launched a series of videos to demonstrate how litter can spread diseases, and to encourage families to talk about cleanliness and good personal hygiene habits, at home and in public places. We will be showcasing these videos later on. Do share these videos with your family and friends.
Recognising Cleaners as Our Frontline Heroes
10 Another part of the Council’s campaign is to recognise our cleaners. They are our essential workers and frontline heroes. They have worked hard, particularly during this pandemic, to keep our public spaces clean, sanitised and litter-free. Let us all extend our appreciation to them and help keep them safe!
11 The COVID-19 situation has provided the environmental services industry with an opportunity to transform and emerge stronger. For example, to upskill the cleaning workforce, the NEA and Workforce Singapore have partnered the Environmental Management Association of Singapore to launch a new Place-and-Train Programme for Cleaning Specialists providing disinfection services. This will enhance the career prospects of workers through a structured training framework. A multi-skilled cleaner can expect to earn higher wages through the Progressive Wage Model for Cleaners.
12 NEA also worked with Institutes of Higher Learning on new training courses to upskill cleaners in disinfection works and to ensure that they are trained to protect themselves against COVID-19 and other public health threats while at work. NEA is working with partner agencies and the trade associations to identify gaps and emerging trends in skills and competencies to continue upgrading our workforce.
13 In appreciation of our cleaners, the Council will be unveiling new uniform designs for cleaners today. This is a collaboration with students from Temasek Polytechnic’s School of Design. Four cleaners will be joining us to model the new uniforms. These new uniforms aim to instil a greater sense of professionalism, pride and purpose in our cleaners as they continue their important work of ensuring a clean and safe Singapore.
14 In conclusion, each one of us is an integral part of our collective defence against public health threats. Our level of public hygiene reflects who we are as a people. Our daily choices define the cleanliness of our environment, and the safety of our community. By taking proactive action, and making meaningful adjustment in our daily lives, we can make a difference. With the Government, industries and community working together, I am confident that we can Keep Singapore Clean and become a Zero Litter Nation. Thank you.