Singapore — The Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) have apologised for an incident involving a migrant worker being informed he had tested positive for Covid-19 three weeks after his swab test. They said the delay was due to an “administrative error”.
The ministries issued a joint statement on Sunday (July 19) apologising for the lapse but noted there was no impact on the “appropriateness of the clearance strategy” for Toh Guan Dormitory, the residence of the worker along with 11 roommates, reported straitstimes.com.
The statement was in response to media queries about two separate Facebook posts on July 15 by Ms Tsjin Chandra Dolly and Ms Kelly Soh. The two women are understood to be affiliated to the same company which employs the migrant worker. They said in their posts that the worker’s swab test was conducted on June 22 and that there was confirmation from MOH on July 13 that he tested positive.
The worker was told to inform his dorm operator immediately. The latter mentioned that it was unable to do anything but advised the rest of the men in the room to put on masks, which they had been doing all the while, said Ms Tsjin.
They had also called the MOH hotline the same day and were asked to wait about 24 hours for the worker to be transported out of the room, said Ms Soh. The worker informed them the following day that neither the MOH nor the dorm operator called for an update.
Ms Soh said they called MOH again and were lucky that time for the call to be answered by a very helpful staff member who took down all the details of the infected worker and the dormitory address.
They were informed that the multi-ministry task force would take over and would be in touch with the dormitory directly. The women were relieved to know this and called the dorm manager to give him a heads up.
However, up till July 15, “nothing was arranged, and nothing was communicated among MOH, Task Force and dormitory”, said Ms Soh.
When they tried reaching out to MOH again, they were shocked to discover that there was no record of their initial inquiry. The women found that they were going around in circles, trying to get a concrete response from the right organisations.
“I was like dumbfounded and full of frustrations, we have been pushed around from dorm to MOH to Task Force, and nothing was done,” said Ms Soh. “Is this the way Covid-19 cases (were) supposed to be handled at the dormitory?” she asked. “No wonder the cases in the dormitory never-ending as they do not bother to isolate the positive tested worker,” added Ms Tsjin.
According to the ministries, survey tests were conducted on a sample of workers at Toh Guan Dormitory on June 22, including the said worker and his 11 roommates. This was to assess the extent of the spread, and to develop the most appropriate strategy for clearing the dormitory. The survey tests for the 12 workers which were pooled and added together came back positive. There was a high possibility that the group would have been infected, given that they had been residing together for the past three months, noted the ministries.
Furthermore, the joint statement cited that the survey tests were not individualised tests that could be used to give a worker the clearance to resume working as he was free from the virus.
The ministries admitted an administrative error occurred when the survey tests for the group only contained the said worker’s swab, meaning it was indeed an individual test and not a pool test. “We have since reached out to the employer to explain the situation,” they added.
The ministries followed up by saying the administrative error does not alter or impact the overall procedure for clearing the workers at a particular dormitory. The approach includes a series of serology and individual polymerise chain reaction tests on top of pool tests. They confirmed the worker and his roommates were getting medical attention and proper care during the testing and clearing period.
Swab test done on 07 July & received SMS 13 July @ 8.30am from Ministry of Health, Singapore that he was tested positive…