Hair salons hope for earlier vaccination after Atatcutz cluster

About 60 per cent of workers in industry are non-Singaporeans and need their employers to arrange for jabs

The Hair and Cosmetology Association Singapore (Hacos) is hoping for earlier vaccination and more regulations for front-line workers in the wellness sector following the recent emergence of a Covid-19 cluster at barber shop Atatcutz Singapore.

The cluster was announced on Saturday by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and had eight cases as of Monday, including five employees from the Bedok branch.

It is closed until June 15 for deep cleaning and disinfection.

Speaking to The New Paper recently, Hacos founder Simon Lee said: "As this industry involves... daily engagement with customers, early vaccination for this group of professionals is the best preventive measure to keep everyone safe."

About 60 per cent of the workers in the industry are non-Singaporeans and require their employers to arrange for their vaccination. About 60 per cent are also under 40 years old and not eligible for vaccination yet.

Hacos had previously made two requests to MOH in March and last month for early vaccination but to no avail.

Mr Lee said Hacos will be making another appeal following the Atatcutz cluster.

He added that there are still some in the industry who do not follow safe management rules, including not wearing masks properly during service.

He said: "It is nothing unusual to us as there is always a minority that takes things into their own hands without considering the interests of the rest."

Ms Teo Shiyun, director of Picasso Hair Studio, told TNP that she was concerned about potential risks at her establishment, especially for her non- Singaporeans employees.

She said: "I have changed our insurance policy to cover Covid hospitalisation, especially for my staff on work permits, because most of them are Malaysians and have no MediShield coverage in Singapore."

According to the latest guidelines, for hairdressing services, all capes and towels must be changed after every service.

All hairdressing equipment, such as scissors, combs and brushes, must be disinfected and sanitised after each customer.

Sultans of Shave, a barber shop with four outlets here, said since the start of phase two (heightened alert) on May 16, it has stopped offering services such as facials and shaves, which require the clients to remove masks.

Its co-founder Lewis Lim said: "Every station is sanitised after service and masks are worn at all times on top of adhering to minimum distance requirements."

Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious disease specialist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, said the risks of being in a hair salon or barber shop setting - which is indoors, has air-conditioning and close proximity between customers and service providers for prolonged periods - has increased as the coronavirus has "adapted" to become more infectious.

He advised people to "wait out" this period for non-essential hair services, and practise social distancing and good personal hygiene when going to salons.

He added: "Good masking is extremely important. Wearing a certified mask and wearing it correctly is key."