Since 15 June 2020, new residential renovation projects, and suspended renovation works for non-residential premises can submit their applications to resume work, according to a press release by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA). This is good news for households affected by the COVID-19 circuit breaker measures which were imposed on 7 April 2020 when all works had to stop. But realistically, home owners should expect work to resume only three to four weeks later. This is because both the BCA and HDB will need time to approve the numerous applications submitted.
According to industry experts, submission of paperwork to both the BCA & HDB could take up to two weeks. Workers will then need to wait for the BCA to contact them for swab testing and if the test results are negative, they can then proceed to attend the COVID-Safe Training course. Construction firms have to ensure that the necessary safety measures are put in place before they can submit the applications to resume work.
All employees must also download the contact-tracing app “TraceTogether” when their company applies to resume work. Employers must also ensure that their workers are not staying in the same accommodation with other workers performing works at construction projects or supply works and provide dedicated transport for their workers between workplaces and places of accommodation. Contractors are also required to provide workers with individually packed meals and utensils as well as masks while they are on the job.
Contractors with approved BCA/HDB applications can resume work immediately if their workers are staying in private residential or HDB flats, as these workers would have completed their 28-day stay-home notice and do not need to undergo a COVID-19 swab test. Workers staying in dormitories cleared by the inter-agency task force can also resume work.
Due to the various processes put in place, it is likely that firms can only resume working on these projects from end July 2020. Another concern is the manpower and supply shortage. As many are migrant workers from other Asian countries, they are either confined to their dormitories or unable to return to Singapore due to travel restrictions.
Another factor is the lack of supplies and materials. Due to the Malaysian Government’s Movement Control Order, supplies such as tiles, sand and cement are also affected and this would delay the start time for the projects.
Renovation companies have to prioritise their projects and decide which ones are more pressing, mainly projects that had started work before being interrupted by circuit breaker measures.
Even after work resumes, construction workers are required to be tested periodically for COVID-19 and if the results are positive, they will have to stop work immediately.
Then there are the sub-contractors, plumbers, electricians. Most are Malaysians unable to return to Singapore and though some contractors can rely on in-house workers, it is certainly insufficient.
For households affected, the Government has pledged, “to do whatever [it] can to assist them”. Minister for National Development, Lawrence Wong, announced that a range of measures is in place to help people who have been affected by construction work delays due to circuit breaker. These measures include subsidised rates at serviced apartments for homeowners who need temporary accommodation, and interim rental flats for those who have difficulties.
Minister Wong also said that the authorities are working to see if transaction timelines can be pushed back. He added that there is a range of different measures to help those affected and remind the various government agencies to be prompt and responsive to some of the appeals.