Ousted ex-MP Amrin Amin congratulated Manpower Minister Josephine Teo for controlling the spread of the COVID-19 infection in the foreign worker dormitories.

Singapore’s approach to controlling the transmission of COVID-19 was initially held up as an international gold standard – until the infection spread like wildfire in the foreign worker dormitories. Several activists had raised the issue of overcrowding at dormitories and urged the authorities to act quickly to prevent an outbreak in the dormitories.

The authorities did not act quickly enough and the pandemic spiralled out of control among the migrant workers in the dormitories.

As the virus spread across dormitories in April, soaring up to a single-daily high of 1,426 cases recorded amongst migrant workers on 20 April, the ministry of manpower (MOM) imposed a stop work order and put an aggressive testing regime in place.

The government also stopped automatically admitting infected patients in hospitals and created community care facilities for those who were at low risk, which allowed hospitals to focus only on those in higher risk categories. At the peak on 12 May, there were 19,667 patients – predominantly migrant workers – in community care facilities.

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By August, it was clear that the situation in dormitories was being brought under control, with new daily cases among dorm workers finally falling below 100 on 11 August. On 11 August, MOM announced that all dormitories had been declared cleared of COVID-19 (except for those blocks that were being used for quarantine facilities).

Although the situation is now more under control, some Singaporeans are still irked over the way manpower minister Josephine Teo’s responded to whether the spread of the virus in the dormitories could have been prevented.

Ms Teo had claimed that the virus spread among migrant workers could not have been anticipated and blamed a lack of hindsight for the outbreaks in the dormitories.

Singaporeans criticised the ruling party politician’s response and her lack of apology since the authorities were repeatedly warned of the risks of housing migrant workers in such close quarters before the outbreaks occurred.

Even though the number of cases has subsided, observers have said that the situation could have been avoided in the first place if the authorities had paid heed to the advice migrant worker advocates gave.

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Ex-MP Amrin Amin, however, has said that credit and thanks are due to Ms Teo and her colleagues for controlling the outbreaks in the dorms. Revealing that he met Ms Teo for lunch on Tuesday (24 Nov), Mr Amrin said that he “congratulated her on her team’s success in controlling COVID-19 infection at our foreign workers’ dormitories.”

Commenting that “the worst looks over,” Mr Amrin wrote at length about how the authorities have been managing the situation. He said:

“We’ve been upfront in acknowledging the problem, conscientiously testing, and vigorously containing the virus. I’m proud that we took care of our foreign friends. They deserve our respect and support in their hour of need.

“We’re focused now on ensuring a swift recovery from COVID-19. The economy has taken a beating. Jobs are affected. We must take care of Singaporean families and ensure our people and industries bounce back fast.

He added: “The pandemic is not over – many countries are experiencing a third wave. We’ve been spared because we took decisive measures with our people’s full backing. Credit and thanks are due to our leaders, people and their families. There’s never a doubt that we can overcome this.”

Some observers asked why Mr Amrin was speaking about the government’s efforts from a first-person point of view since he is no longer a political office-holder.

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Along with former Cabinet Minister Ng Chee Meng and former Senior Minister of State Lam Pin Min, Mr Amrin was unseated from Parliament in the July election when he faced off with a team of mostly new candidates from the Workers’ Party at the contest at Sengkang GRC.

Although the People’s Action Party (PAP) lost Sengkang GRC, Mr Amrin and his teammates remain active as branch chairmen in the ward – a privilege that is only extended to losing ruling party candidates.

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