Singapore—Manpower Minister Josephine Teo took to Facebook to outline what MOM is doing to address the issue of the Covid-19 outbreak in foreign workers’ dormitories.
Among the country’s 4,427 confirmed coronavirus cases, around 60 percent, or 2,689, are migrant workers. Moreover, 19 out of the 43 purpose-built dormitories for these workers have been identified as infection clusters.
This latest outbreak, considered by some to be Singapore’s third wave of Covid-19 infections, has become a topic of national conversation in the past two weeks, since the overly cramped conditions of the workers’ dormitories have contributed to the swift spread of the disease. Critics have partly held the Government responsible for the high number of coronavirus cases among foreign workers, since warnings that the crowded dormitories could be a ticking time bomb for the infection were sounded in February and March by workers’ rights groups.
Singapore saw its first cluster of infected migrant workers early in February, when five Bangladeshi men living in the same dormitory fell ill. While four of the men recovered quickly, the first worker was in critical condition for weeks and has only recently been moved from the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital where he is receiving medical care.
Ms Teo explained the three-pronged strategy to address the issue, which are the locking down of dormitories with infection clusters and separating those who are ill, preventing new clusters from forming in the other dormitories, and keeping essential workers healthy by moving them to new accommodations.
First, the dormitories where infections have been identified are now locked down, with residents temporarily disallowed from going in and out. Testing and monitoring of residents are also ongoing.
Secondly, confirmed cases among the workers have been separated, and if they are residents of dormitories with no identified clusters, these dormitories have also been placed under lockdown, and safe distancing processes have been implemented. This is to prevent more clusters from forming.
Finally, around 7,000 workers in essential services have been transferred from their dormitories to other living quarters, and are subject to safe distancing rules where they live and work and even when they travel so as not to become infected.
Ms Teo added that for the implementation of the above strategies, FAST teams made up of officers from the Singapore Armed Forces, Singapore Police Force and Singapore Ministry of Manpower have been deployed to attend to the foreign workers and help them stay healthy.
The workers also receive assistance from medical staff from the Regional Healthcare Systems’ doctors, nurses and technicians. On-site isolation facilities are also being set up by these teams.
The owners of the dormitories, as well as the employers of the workers, have also stepped up to help the workers, in terms of taking care of their food and sanitation needs, and helping the workers send money to their families overseas. MOM has promised the workers that it would help employers ensure that they continue to receive salaries at this time.
The Minister added “For the strategy to be effective, there will be a lot of adjustments required of our workers living in the dormitories. They cannot go to work or meet their friends. We would have to help them adjust, to keep them safe and healthy.
Our foreign workers has contributed to the building of our country and economy. In these difficult times, we have a responsibility toward them and we will do everything we can to take care of them.” —/TISG
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