When he is scheduled for the morning shift, NUS security officer Mr Ibrahim Bin Muhammad Salleh kisses his sleeping wife and daughter goodbye before shuffling, bleary-eyed, out his door before 6am. It will be another long day at work before he sees his family again.
In these critical times, he also faces the additional risks and stresses of being a frontline worker during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Thankfully, my family is supportive,” he said. “But we do need to take extra precautions in our work. We touch a lot of doors, for instance, so we sanitise our hands a lot.”
Mr Ibrahim takes it all in his stride. On top of the usual patrolling duties, he needs to ensure that safe distancing rules are adhered to by the students and staff who remain on campus during this ‘circuit breaker’ period.
“We are proud to contribute. It’s part of our responsibility.”
Mr Ibrahim is part of a tireless group of NUS unsung heroes on the frontline, even as the country undergoes its ‘circuit breaker’ period to stop the chain of COVID-19 transmissions.
During this ‘circuit breaker’ period, students are to study at home or in their hostel rooms, or in specific study spaces on campus with permission, if they do not have a conducive home environment. The majority of NUS staff are also working from home until 1 June — except for researchers working on vital COVID-19 research and about 250 staff providing essential services on NUS campuses.
They include cleaners, security guards, shuttle bus drivers, as well as staff at the University Health Centre. Despite some apprehension about continuing their work on the frontline amid the health crisis, this has not stopped them from carrying out their work dutifully.
“We may feel scared of the virus, but we keep one metre away from other people and take precautions,” shared Madam Asnah Binte Ekwan, whose duties include the continued upkeep and cleaning of University Hall during the ‘circuit breaker’ period. “We must be very alert, we must wear a mask and gloves.”
Security operations are maintained round the clock by Mr Ibrahim, security team leader Mr Mah Kok Hung and their colleagues. Mr Mah actively monitors CCTV footage across the Kent Ridge Campus. Like Mr Ibrahim, he needs to ensure that there are no gatherings or persons loitering on campus.
He hopes members of the NUS community and others in Singapore will stay at home: “Everyone can be a hero as long as they stay at home at this point of time.”
Government Quarantine Facility at PGPR
Cleaning and security operations are especially vital at the Government Quarantine Facility (GQF) at Prince George’s Park Residences (PGPR), where high-risk individuals serve out their quarantine.
Security supervisor Mr Taneskumar S/O S. Selvanathan leads the security team that comes face-to-face with students in the facility. His daily operations include supervising his staff, checking students entering and leaving the GQF, ensuring unwell students board the ambulance on time, sending food up to the rooms, and responding to emergencies.
“I feel for the students in the GQF who are confined to their rooms for 14 days without family and friends,” he said. “I like being there for them”.
Cleaning supervisor Mr Muhammad Rizal Bin A. Majid ensures that the rooms are set up with all the necessities for a two-week stay. He also clears the daily trash and ensures the highest hygiene standards within the GQF.
Mr Rizal’s decade of experience in the hygiene industry is coming in handy, as were his days serving National Service in the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF).
“Given my training in the SCDF, I know that I have to do my part to protect Singapore and my natural instincts took over. Whilst the job is of high risk, it is a national calling and I have to do my part.”
Equally important are logistics and transportation operations, and this is where NUS Vehicle Fleet Team In-Charge Mr Abdul Rahman S/O Salai Md Ali is stepping up. He drives a mini-bus for students on Leave of Absence (LOA), and drives them to the University Health Centre when they are not feeling well.
“Students on LOA may feel scared or anxious. I am thankful to be able to play my part to assure them that the University cares and that they are not alone,” he said.
The University Health Centre continues to operate and serve the NUS community during the ‘circuit breaker’ period. Operations there remain possible only because of the doctors, nurses, pharmacists and counter staff.
Dr Lim Jun Hong, a university health physician who tends to fever and high-risk cases, has to don full personal protective equipment for more than eight hours a day. While there is a high level of physical and mental stress as every case could potentially be COVID-positive, Dr Lim sees meaning in his work: “As doctors, it is our honour and privilege to serve our patients during this difficult and trying period. COVID-19 is novel but our work is noble!”
Outside the doctor’s office, Dr Lim’s work is supported by staff nurse Ms Nang Myint Sein, counter staff Ms Clara Hong and pharmacist Ms Tan Weiling. All of the health centre’s staff are calm and reassuring with patients who may be anxious about their health.
“During this time, it is normal for everyone to worry. We would like to let the NUS community know that we will always be here for you,” said Ms Tan.