The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has announced that with effect from Wednesday (19 Aug), all dormitories have been declared cleared of COVID-19 – including the standalone blocks in Purpose-Built Dormitories (PBDs) serving as isolation/quarantine facilities.
MOM reported that all residents in the standalone blocks have either completed their isolation/quarantine, or been moved to other government facilities depending on their health status. It added that the number of workers able to resume work continues to increase.
The ministry said, “We expect the recently cleared dormitories to soon complete all the necessary preparations, with an additional 20,000 residents expected to have Green AccessCode.
“Half of these residents currently have Red AccessCode as their addresses are not updated. Reminders will be sent to dormitory operators and employers to update workers’ addresses accordingly.”
Earlier, the ministry launched the AccessCode system to help employers easily check if their foreign employees are permitted to leave their residences for work. Those with a Green AccessCode are approved to start work while workers with a Red AccessCode are not allowed to do so.
Migrant workers could have a Red AccessCode for a number of reasons, such as having active COVID-19 infection or their test results coming back inconclusive. Workers whose addresses are not updated or do not have the TraceTogether contact tracing app downloaded on their phones can also be given a Red AccessCode.
MOM said that it expects that there will “always be a proportion of workers who have a Red AccessCode” moving forward since workers may still test positive for COVID-19 or be undergoing treatment.
Other possible reasons for workers having a Red AccessCode is if they are close contacts with infected individuals and are placed under quarantine or if they are placed on precautionary quarantine while their exposure to a Covid-positive case is being established.
Workers may also have a Red AccessCode if they do not undergo Rostered Routine Testing (RRT). MOM said that occurrences of workers having Red AccessCode are part of the overall system of ensuring compliance with RRT and said that any cases detected will be “contained, with contacts traced and the block or level of the dormitory isolated.”
MOM has also adopted a new multilayered strategy to prevent a second wave of infections in the cleared dormitories, given the completion of the dormitory-clearance process. The first strategy is to prevent the spread of the virus by matching migrant workers staying in the dormitories to the type of industry that they work in.
In addition, Safe Distancing Measures have been implemented in the dormitories. MOM said that this “will ensure Safe Living, Safe Working and Safe Rest arrangements for the workers are adhered to.”
The second strategy is to detect the risk of new outbreaks. MOM said that it plans to leverage RRT, medical technology, waste water monitoring and checking for acute respiratory illness (ARI) to manage the risk of new outbreaks. It said, “With these, we will be able to sieve out new cases early and perform the necessary containment arrestment efforts.”
Once a new case is detected, MOM said that the contact tracing effort will commence to
determine the close contacts at the dormitory and workplace with reference to the individual’s movement history.
As part of the third strategy to contain the virus spread, sector agencies will work closely with employers to assess the risk at the workplaces and put in place safety timeouts if necessary. MOM said that aggressive testing operations will also be conducted to arrest a possible second wave of infection.
Lastly, close contacts of new cases will be promptly isolated to cut off the spread of the coronavirus. Immediate close contacts of the positive migrant workers will undergo a 14-day quarantine at a dedicated facility as soon as they are identified. Other close contacts will be quarantined on-site to undergo tests to ensure that they are COVID-cleared before they can resume work.
Asserting that the new infection cases in cleared dormitories and decant sites is a reminder of the need to be vigilant, MOM said that it will be better able to assess the
impact of Safe Distancing Measures (SDM) and segregation measures in time as it gathers more real-life data, which will help review patterns in the spread of infections as well as the extent of quarantine required to contain a detected case.
The ministry promised: “Our priority will be to prevent and arrest new infections through early detection, timely containment and effective isolation.”