According to Ms Teo, Singapore’s Manpower Minister, the outbreak was dealt with “squarely and quickly” by the Government upon learning that the number of confirmed cases among migrant workers were growing.
At present, 87 percent of coronavirus cases in the country are among foreign workers living in dormitories. Singapore now has a total of 18,778 confirmed cases, with 1,457 recoveries and 18 deaths.
Nominated member of parliament Anthea Ong asked if the government would apologise to migrant workers for the situation. In response, Ms Teo said that not “one single migrant worker himself has demanded an apology”.
She added that they were more concerned with whether or not they would continue to get paid, how they can send money home to their families, and how workers who have fallen ill would receive treatment.
On his part, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said that authorities had “moved in quickly” in sending medical personnel to the dormitories to support the workers.
The Manpower Minister also said that the Government had been aware of the migrant workers since the beginning of the spread of the virus, and even spoke to the operators of dormitories concerning necessary hygiene standards.
Listing what the Government had done back then, Ms Teo said, “We produced materials in the workers’ native languages to encourage them to take steps to protect themselves. Subsequently, non-essential facilities in the dormitories like gyms and television rooms were closed.”
Walter Theseira, another nominated member of parliament, together with Ms Ong asked if a committee of inquiry would be convened to look into the cause of the spread of the virus in the workers’ dormitories, and whether overcrowding in the dorms caused the high number of infections.
This was answered by Lawrence Wong, National Development Minister and head of the multi-ministry task force assigned to address the issues stemming from the coronavirus crisis, who said that a review would be carried out after the crisis is over, but that it would be a comprehensive one that tackles the situation as a whole, not just the infections among workers.
Ms Teo also clarified that the living standards of migrant workers have gone higher over the years, but added that authorities will “reflect and thoroughly look into the areas” of improvement when the crisis ends.
She said in her speech that having the workers each stay in their own room may not be that successful in preventing another wave of infections because there are “multiple channels of transmission among migrant workers” including social activities on their rest days.
She called the situation among the 43 purpose-built foreign worker dormitories in the country “largely stable now.”
“Most of the workers are well and those tested positive are on the path to recovery. The full results of these efforts will, however, take time to show.
We will fulfil our commitment to the workers and pave the way for work and business to resume safely when conditions allow,” said the Manpower Minister.
Mr Gan expressed the hope that infections among the workers will be “clearly under control” by June 1, the date for the partial lifting of circuit breaker restrictions. —/TISG
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